‘Safe’ Football Failed in 1880s, Talking Points Lived On

American football ‘experts’ developed timeless promises for preventing injuries 130 years ago but failed, repeatedly, to solve anything

By Matt Chaney, ChaneysBlog.com

Posted Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Copyright ©2016 by Matthew L. Chaney

Brutality of American football was under control and diminishing, game leaders declared by the late 1880s. Problems of injury and “slugging” were basically resolved, winnowed down to isolated incidents through a decade of reform efforts, they said.

Football advocates agreed. “The game is as safe as any outdoor game,” wrote Alexander Johnston, Princeton professor and football booster, proposing a benign tackling technique. Johnston wrote a how-to football article for Century Illustrated Magazine in 1887, complemented with artist renderings of Foul Tackle and Fair Tackle for instructive contrast. “With good physical condition in the players, the requisite training, and suitable grounds, the game is not only one of the best of outdoor sports, but one of the safest,” Prof. Johnston assured readers.

College football leadership amounted to a few young men, some playing yet. Rule-makers for the Intercollegiate Football Association now exercised “almost sole control over the general conduct of the players upon the field,” promised Walter Camp, the IFA committee leader, referee, Yale co-coach and football writer. “We shall see a much more quiet [scrimmage] line and a much steadier style of playing, characterized by clever running but sharper tackling. Captains will train their men to keep their tempers.”

American tackle football originated from the English games of “kicking” and rugby. The Chicago Tribune depicted brutal play as past-tense, eliminated. “Centuries ago it was war on a small scale. Time has civilized the game. American college rules, modifications of the Rugby game, made it less clumsy and more adroit.”

American football had become scientific, refined by experts like Camp, according to advocates in news and education. “A great advance has been made in the method of playing the game within the last ten years or so,” stated a national news report, “and in consequence the liability of accident has been greatly reduced, while the interest has not been detracted from in the least.”

Football and its social scene marked “the rage” among popular “amusements,” booming as mass entertainment. But safe field contact and injury reduction didn’t materialize as the 1888 season played out in November.

Football critics roiled again, detecting nil improvement despite new rules; they saw violence only heightening on playing fields. When violations, malicious assaults and injuries marred a Thanksgiving game in New York City, ridicule kicked back on rule-maker Camp, who refereed the melee.

“Several Men were Laid Out,” headlined The New York Sun, in aftermath of Wesleyan College versus Pennsylvania at the Polo Grounds. “There was rough and bitter play.” The football spectacle “was the roughest, most reckless, dangerous and unskillful game which has been played here for several years…,” remarked The New York Tribune, “an exhibition of how much twenty-two vigorous young athletes will endure for the name and fame of their college… one man was disqualified when there should have been half a dozen.”

Leg chops, body blows, neck tackles and head shots abounded between Wesleyan and Penn. Players were clad in canvas jackets, knee breeches, skull caps, and shoes with steel spikes. They exchanged head-butts, shoulder-rams, elbowing, shoving, pushing, grabbing, tossing, kneeing, kicking, stomping and punching. Players suffered battered and mangled limbs, tissue punctures, facial lacerations, bloody noses, “concussion” and more symptoms of traumatic brain injury [TBI], according to news reports. Most injured players didn’t leave the game, carrying on dazed, hurting and agitated.

The New York Times oozed disgust, relaying that “both teams endeavored to find out which possessed the most force as battering rams, and they were ramming away most cheerfully when time was called, at 4:45, just as it was growing too dark to see the ball except at close quarters. The referee was Walter Camp of Yale, and the umpire was M. Hodge of Princeton. Both of these gentlemen escaped unscathed.”

Camp, the acclaimed “Father of Football” at age 29, typically steered press coverage instead of taking flak. He deflected culpability for the Thanksgiving debacle, blaming Wesleyan and Penn players for failure to “tackle properly.” And controversy abated, again, for gladiatorial sport at colleges.

II.  1800s ‘Foot ball’ Spreads America, Players Adopt Rugby Style, and Fans Flock

The American story of athlete-turned-politician was a headliner in 1843, embodied by Joseph R. Williams, Whig Party congressional candidate from Michigan. Williams was a Harvard alumnus known for “his swiftness of foot and his dexterity in kicking the football on the college green,” newspapers touted. An opinion-page commentator saluted the shrewd political promotion—Williams as athletic candidate—calling it “a new point of distinction in the character of a public man.” Indeed, agrarian America admired manly physical prowess, regarded higher than a college education by most folks, Harvard notwithstanding.

“Kicking football” captured American fancy by outset of the Victorian Era, decades ahead of rugby’s emergence in the states. All ages enjoyed the “footie” game later known as soccer and primarily for its participatory experience, the exhilarating movement, rather than spectating. Whenever a round Goodyear ball appeared for an outdoor gathering, ranging from kids in a street to adults at a lawn party, people sprang to chase and kick the rubber. Public awareness of football emanated from the Northeast, spreading westward and southward via carriers like newspapers, railroads, military posts, churches and schools.

Civil War camps were major conduits for football’s cultural reach. Military units from everywhere, North and South, indulged the game as a fun substitute for drill, boredom—and an intense outlet for male aggression. Kicking a football was risky enough, especially for hurting legs, but many troops preferred rough action favored by college students, more body contact. “Foot ball and boxing matches are of frequent occurrence,” read a Union dispatch from Washington camps in October 1861, “and are participated in with much spirit.”

Outdoor athletics rose in prominence after the war, with “base ball” surging ahead before gladiatorial sport quickly caught up. Boxing garnered headlines, although largely negative because of prizefighting’s illegality. News spotlight trained on the fresh import from England, Rugby School football. Rugby featured ball-carriers and tacklers on the run and colliding, daredevil entertainment for spectators.

Early rugby in America included a match of 1869 between cricket clubs at Philadelphia. The Inquirer published a set of collision rules, “chiefly from those of Rugby School,” including:

13. A player, on catching the ball on the fly of first bound, may carry the ball, and endeavor to reach the opponents’ goal.

14. The privileges of hacking (or kicking) below the knee, tripping, and use of the arms with elbows squared, in charging, or in the scrimmages, will be allowed.

15. Mauling, or the use of the hands, is prohibited, except on the ball.

16. The arms shall not be used against any part of the person above or below the chest.

An enthusiastic crowd supported the Philly ruggers on Nov. 20 as the host Germantown Cricket Club defeated the Young America Cricket Club by scoring 16 “rogues” or goal-line crossings, according to The Inquirer. Future football historians, however, would mark a different 1869 event as milestone: The first inter-collegiate football game of record, played by English Association rules—soccer—on Nov. 6 in Camden, New Jersey, across river from Philadelphia. Host Rutgers College defeated Princeton in the kicking game by a score of 6 to 4, for “innings” won.

Rugby style beckoned college males. Students had long converted footie games into tests of ball-carrying and blocking, knocking. It suited Yale men for class games in 1852, with one combatant rendered unconscious and “borne bleeding from the field,” per a report. Young males willfully turned to body-bashing and worse in football, spurred by competitiveness and often anger. On many campuses the contests served as hazing missions of upperclassmen, under cloak of athletics, for bloody assaults on freshmen sanctioned or ignored by faculty.

While intercollegiate football began largely as kicking games, Yale and Columbia experimented with rugby elements in a physical faceoff of 1872. The Harvard team fully committed to ball-carrying and collision football, playing rugby versions in games against McGill College of Canada and also matches with Yale and Tufts College in 1875.

Controversy embroiled rugby in homeland England over generations of violence and injuries among schoolboys. The 1870s debate erupted in reader letters printed by The London Times and moved into editorial pages of the medical journal Lancet. Several doctors and educators condemned rugby for casualties ranging from bone-and-joint traumas to deaths of organ rupture and neck fracture.

Grieving schoolmaster S.G. Rees, of the Wasing Rectory, urged the Times editor to denounce rugby football at public schools. Rees had been fond of young player Sydney Branson, whose death after intestinal rupture prompted a coroner to criticize “the game as now played.” Rees, in his letter to the editor of March 24, 1875, wrote:

I have too much reason to speak with bitterness of this [Rugby School] game of football, against which I warned [Branson] on the week before. He was the last remaining hope of my old age, and he was about to be married to my only child, who is now in a most critical state from the misery caused by this terrible event. I am sure if the mothers in England could have watched by that dying boy’s side, and witnessed the agonizing pangs, the fearful tortures arising from his internal wounds, and misery of parting with those now desolate ones, to whom he was everything in life, they would, with one voice… cry aloud against this most pernicious game. Accidents may happen in hunting, cricket, and boating, but this is a fight, where injuries are directly inflicted by one man upon another.

Some youths hesitated to join the maw, but many English schools mandated rugby while others exerted pressure to participate. The intimidating activity combined “football, handball, tussling, and wrestling,” observed a Times letter from a father.  “I have long ago determined never to send any of my sons to a public school where it is played, however good the school might be in other respects,” he wrote.

In America of autumn 1876, a news ripple followed the organizing of IFA and adoption of Rugby Union rules by football teams at four colleges: Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Columbia. But many athletes stood ready to embrace rugby. Clubs at colleges, preps and towns were already active throughout the Northeast and in outposts like Ann Arbor, Chicago, Evanston, Milwaukee and Louisville.

“It is pretty rough pastime,” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle previewed of IFA rugby style, “and it needs great control of temper in its players to avoid personal quarrels as a result of the frequent and violent collisions which occur in closely contested matches… Of late years it has grown in favor with our American college youths, and our larger school boys, and this Fall more than usual attention is being paid to it.”

Competition commenced with rugby balls of oblong leather, and in succeeding years American football grew distinct as IFA rules evolved. The game’s popularity exploded between 1876 and 1883, with gate attendance rising to 10,000 fans for Thanksgiving games staged in Manhattan.

Newspapers enjoyed circulation spikes for daily football coverage and added print space, producing “Sporting News” pages on Sunday. The lucrative football-media synergy led newspapers into public cheer-leading for the sport, and magazines and books readily glorified it, printing tales for a growing audience young and old.

Many newspapers unabashedly promoted football and recruited young males to play. The “manly” game benefited of a fortune in free headlines and stories, and writers routinely solicited males to fill needy rosters at clubs, colleges and schools. Some scribes openly challenged masculinity of halting local athletes. Additionally, reporting for a football game sold sex straightaway with female adornment standard in story lead and illustration, effuse portrayal of beautiful “ladies” in the grandstand. One way or another, thousands of men and boys were drawn to take their chance at heroism on the football field.

Rugby teams and leagues cropped up nationally, following cue of the news hub Northeast. College clubs nurtured the sport’s growth in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and California. School and town teams percolated in locales such as Little Rock, San Antonio, Omaha, Colorado Springs, Reno, Salt Lake, Jamestown, N.D., and Idaho City. Americanized football extended west to the Hawaiian Kingdom, where college men and schoolboys organized on Oahu Island.

In 1881 The Philadelphia Times declared football “promises ere long to become the really national pastime of the country, especially in the autumn months.” Numerous colleges and preparatory schools capitalized, hitching on the football bandwagon powered by the “Big Three” of Harvard and Yale—“the two leading institutions of learning in the United States,” according to The New York Times—and Princeton.

Marketing for enrollment was priority at colleges and academies, and the contemporary hot offering was physical culture curriculum complete with athletic teams, gymnasium and grounds. Sport like football inspired “enthusiasm and love for one’s Alma Mater,” an Amherst student wrote in the period, adding, “the college which wins the love of its students [for] her contests and triumphs will always prosper.” Many colleges embraced athlete-managed football “associations” sprouting on campuses. Administrations viewed football as a surefire seller for drawing students, benefactor alumni and more paying parties.

“Almost every institution of learning that has a campus or a back-yard large enough to toss pennies in can boast of a football team,” The New York Tribune observed, continuing: “the exercises of the fall term consist mainly in football, oatmeal eating, chapel exercises and Latin—mentioned, or course, in the order of their importance.” Skeptics of such modern education had their points, The Tribune acknowledged in 1883, but sports “when properly controlled, and restricted as they are at present in most colleges… the harm they do is very slight, and is greatly exceeded by the good.”

Among the perceived benefits over risks, football proponents insisted the activity was moral, curbing campus problems of hazing, fighting, drinking and gambling. The theory followed that football provided all students with clean catharsis for negative emotion and behavior. Proponents said a football player himself learned chivalry, toughness, discipline and teamwork. The game uniquely taught qualities “likely to prove of far more benefit in a business line… fitting a young man for life in the world,” remarked the Philadelphia Times, lauding its “splendid exercise.” Harvard, Princeton and Yale also hosted student boxing, likewise in deference to the 19th century notion that a sound mind was built on sound body, and that rugged sport prepared youths to defend the country in war. Football and “sparring” at colleges and preps served Muscular Christianity, supporters said.

But adversaries charged the opposite, alleging football spectacle on campus begat hooliganism, vice, mercenary athletes, immoral winning and further toxins for educational mission. Foremost, critics decried violence of American football, the myriad hazards and injuries for young bodies. They recommended dropping present-day rules and reverting to traditional “kicking” football that forbade tackling, blocking and ball-carrying. At Cambridge, the Harvard faculty demanded cessation of football competition with other colleges until someone enacted impact reform.

Football advocates answered, arguing their American game represented improvement on English versions. They said American football was less risky than both Rugby and Association [soccer] formats. “Now, anyone who has actually tried both games knows that the old game is by far the more dangerous,” a Princeton player wrote The Times under an apparent pseudonym. The letter-writer blamed individual players for violating American rules to cause any serious injuries.

The Yale football captain concurred in 1884, E.L. Richards, Jr., speaking with a reporter from bed, where he lay crippled by game injury. Wearing a leg cast, Richards denied he was hurt seriously. “Football is all right,” he said, smoking cigarettes and drinking champagne in a New York hotel room. “Nobody ever was killed by playing it. It’s a nice, healthy, manly exercise.”

Football insiders said their game injured few players while killing none. The claim was parroted by writers, more game supporters in the early 1880s, but it was false, according to review of period newspapers available in electronic search today. Organized tackle football in America injured and killed players from the start, including schoolboys.

III.  1876-1884: American Football Injury Factor and Official Rhetoric of Denial

Newspapers chronicled few injury incidents of American football prior to 1880, and valid medical literature didn’t exist. Indeed, legitimate epidemiological study on football casualties would remain inadequate spanning three centuries, or through the present, 2016, and our foreseeable future.

In 1836 a Carlisle College student died of football in Pennsylvania, for trauma presumably sustained in a kicking game. A newspaper noted the incident a half-century later, attributing local witnesses. “Talbot P. Moore… while engaged in the campus at a game of foot ball, was seriously injured—so much so that he never appeared again with his class in college, but lingered at his home and there died,” reported The Carlisle Herald.

Football-injury news gained a beat in the 1870s, spurred by thriving popular press of the Industrial Age, but especially for Rugby style’s takeover at many colleges, athletic clubs and schools. Risky football spectacle was alluring for many males, leading to a traumatic brain injury in eastern Indiana: “A little boy named Charlie Green ran into an excited crowd at foot-ball, at the First Ward School this morning [in Richmond], and being knocked down was run over and trampled upon until almost killed. His head was badly lacerated, and he was taken home insensible,” The Cincinnati Enquirer reported in 1875.

A few football fatalities appeared in newspapers. An 1877 brief announced a player’s dying at the University of Michigan, identified as “Dr. Currey.” Death occurred from complications of a damaged chest artery, according to The Hillsdale Standard, but e-information accessible to this investigator in 2016 provided no further detail. Some faculty members played football at colleges and prep academies in the 19th century, so Currey possibly represented the campus “medics” rugby team, which faced off against the law school squad in Ann Arbor. Elsewhere, Vermont, young Michael Corvea died, reportedly of a kick to his abdomen in football.

Major newspapers and magazines, concentrated in the Northeast, hardly addressed football fatalities in that initial decade because none occurred at Yale, Princeton or Harvard—not yet. The Big Three dominated football content as the only teams to sell nationally for reader consumption. But injuries riddled those lineups and some writers reported a casualty problem for football in general, criticizing Rugby style as too violent for colleges, schools and other entities.

“A large number of the players have been strained and terribly lamed,” The Boston Daily Globe observed. “In fact, some of the injuries received by a number of the players have been so severe that the attention of [faculty educators] has been called to the dangerous character of the game.”  The New York Times covered a bloody practice session for a football club, observing: “Rugby Union rules lead to a game none of the gentlest, and several aspiring players were seen to leave the field in a sadly demoralized condition.”

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle skewered “American Rules” football from the beginning, in commentaries printed without writer bylines. “It is a fruitful source of ruptures, sprained limbs and injuries which leave their mark for years, if not for a lifetime. It is the roughest of games now played.” The paper portrayed an environment rather hopeless for meaningful safety reform:

[Football] cultivates the combative feelings of our youth to a high degree, and engenders anything but good feeling… The game as now played is little else than a continuous series of wrestling matches for the possession of the ball, in the course of which players not only come into violent collision with each other, but they are grappled with and thrown violently to the ground… the possessor of the ball often has the breath pressed out of him by the weight of five or six heavy men lying on one another on top of him. No matter in what position he may fall when holding the ball, his opponents fall on him and thus it frequently happens that arms are broken or wrists or ankles sprained while the severe twisting of the body in the wrestling encounters is a fruitful source of ruptures.

In 1878 The Daily Eagle urged institutions to drop rugby in favor of lacrosse or traditional footie. The paper opined that “at present foot ball, rightly speaking, is not played in this country,” continuing:

Lacrosse is vastly superior to foot ball in the special respect of its possessing all the attractions which swift running, graceful activity, pluck, courage and endurance present, without the inducements to ill natured contests and the liability to life long injuries which is so characteristic of foot ball. If foot ball, however, were modified and really made a foot ball game, it would not be so bad, but as it is it is the most dangerous game now in vogue and one which has nothing to commend it to gentlemen.

On the contrary, other news writers declared football posed no higher risk than baseball, boating and horseback riding. Fan newsmen thought football to be the perfect antidote for a male population growing effeminate since the war. No IFA official commented on injuries during the late 1870s, given news content surveyed for this analysis. Leaders of American football were students, including Walter Camp, then a Yale undergraduate player doubling as intercollegiate rule-maker.

But talking points were already established for advocacy of rough football, a rhetoric constructed among Rugby School loyalists over decades of controversy in England. Rugby’s trusted response to public backlash in Britain framed the following claims:

•Rugby dangers were in the past because of new rules strictly enforced.

•Association Rules football [soccer] was riskier than Rugby School.

•In properly played rugby injuries were accidental, serious casualties rare.

•Unfit or malicious individuals caused injuries, not rugby.

•Rugby was safer than hunting, boating or cricket.

•Rugby critics were ignorant of the sport science.

•Rugby injuries were exaggerated by doctors and the press.

But bad press and disturbed doctors hit English rugby once again in 1878, and this U.K. debate made headlines in American papers. A London physician said: “At the top of the list of bad physical exercises I place the game of football. This game, in some modes of playing it, is the cause of more physical mischief than I can describe. To say nothing of the immediate injuries that occur from it by falls, sprains, kicks and concussions, broken bones, dislocations, broken shins and other visible accidents, there are others of a less obvious kind, which are sometimes still more disastrous. Hernia, or rupture, is one of these disasters; varicose veins is another; and disease of the heart from pure over-strain is a third.”

Following death of an English rugger, a coroner’s jury recommended revision of Rugby rules to eliminate injuries. In America, meanwhile, football leaders pondered major changes as casualty incidents appeared more frequently in newspapers during the 1879 season. At least two American fatalities occurred: John P.H. Smith, a 17-year-old in Illinois, died after suffering internal ruptures in a football game at State Normal University; and an unidentified youth died in New York City from complications of leg fracture—“a timely warning for impetuous and incautious ball-players”—newspapers reported.

The Big Three teams didn’t play cautiously, could not, given their battle sweepstakes. Thousands of fans now paid admission to see games of Yale, Harvard and Princeton. The champion enjoyed money windfall and prestige. But necessary injuries mounted against winning, too, such as for Yale that season. Eleven of the roster’s 15 players were hurt in varying degrees. In one game, abdominal trauma sidelined a man while captain Camp was dropped by an elbow to the gut, although he got up and played on.

A frightening injury felled Princeton star halfback T.H.P. Farr, against lowly Columbia University, a game described as “a series of conflicts resulting in fouls.” The New York Sun reported a tackler’s arm swung into Farr at the throat and “his body straightened out like a whiplash… dropped to the ground like a stone.” Farr lay still several minutes before rising and moving “slowly to the dressing house, with a friend on either side.”

Neck tackling was perilous like common head butting, the latter being “a gross violation of foot-ball rules,” The Times noted in 1879. Blockers led “rushes” by ramming, pushing and grabbing, or “guarding” ball-carriers in violation of Rugby rules. At season’s climax, the Thanksgiving game that drew 6,000 spectators, rule-making players opened discussion for new code.

Camp chiefly designed American football’s makeover from 1880 to 1882. Safety was the expressed purpose, officials later recalled, for “opening” the game and minimizing injury. Three primary developments drove change: a) establishing a line of “scrimmage” between opposing teams of 11 players per side; b) designating ball possession for one side at a time; and c) extending ball possession when a side advances five yards in three downs.

Foremost, the rugby “scrummage” was eliminated, or the circle of interlocked players kicking and struggling over the ball for chance possession. The New York Sun lauded new IFA rules in an editorial of Oct. 20, 1880:

Heretofore the great objection to foot ball encounters has been the great number of serious injuries which have resulted from the dangerous [scrums], which have been such a marked featured of the Rugby Union games. Under the revised rules this objectionable feature has been partially removed, and eventually it will be entirely eliminated from the game. In its place there will be more “passing” of the ball, and more kicking it and catching it, with livelier work in running than before, and of course greatly less liability to serious injuries.

The Philadelphia Times agreed, praising new football. The American game had become “skillful, strategical play” demonstrated by “quick and accurate passing of the ball on close runs and in sharp dodging.” Public faith was strong, and football resurrected at Illinois State Normal University after pause for the death of Smith.

But harm was uninterrupted.  While fisticuffs and more forms of “slugging” might’ve been controlled, American rule-makers couldn’t overcome incorrigibility of their forward-colliding sport, its substantial risks and elemental casualties.

“Two players were knocked senseless in the [Columbia-Stevens] match at Hoboken on Tuesday, one having to be carried off the field,” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported on Nov. 3, 1881. “Half a dozen or more were lamed, and all, more or less, received bruises.”

“Taken at its best, foot-ball is always dangerous to the players,” The New York Times editorialized. “It is a source of broken limbs and ruptures.” Lincoln University player W.H. Clark died of a severed artery in Pennsylvania, proving “foot-ball is not always safe,” observed The Delaware County Daily Times.

The Harvard faculty committee on athletics threatened to end Crimson football before Thanksgiving in 1883. The committee found “games played under [American] rules have already begun to degenerate,” a faculty letter informed the Harvard captain.

News reverberated nationally. “College athletics have received a set-back in the refusal of the Harvard faculty to allow their men to play foot ball with other colleges as long as the Rugby rules are followed,” The Des Moines Register editorialized on front page, Dec. 5, 1883, continuing:

Under the old English rules foot ball was an entertaining, manly sport. Under the new rules it has become a dangerous, brutal pastime, little more than a display of brute strength. Throttling, tripping and knocking down are the means now largely used to win a game. Hardly a game passes between leading foot ball teams without some serious accident and broken bones are a frequent occurrence. The tendency of college athletics has been growing away from their original purpose—that of furnishing rational healthful sport—towards the development of professional athletes…

Harvard football resisted faculty pressure that season. The players promised stricter officiating and cleaner behavior then resumed their games.

Camp responded to Harvard faculty and all “bugbear” adversaries of football, criticizing them in a letter to newspapers and during a reporter’s interview. College graduate Camp no longer played football, after injury apparently ended his seventh season for Yale. In 1884 he attended medical school in New York while serving as IFA leader and part-time athletics coach at Yale, along with his ventures such as sports writing. Camp and Yale argued football dangers were overblown by ill-informed journalists and academics. “The men who write about the weakness and mistakes of our rules take a great deal upon themselves when they criticize what has been worked on by not only fairly-educated men, but real players, for half a dozen years,” stated a release from Yale football.

American football, according to Camp, was actually safer than both the Rugby and Association styles, and faculty meddling would ruin entire departments of physical education. Medical supervision and proper training protected college football players, Camp said, while the game promoted “temperance” by eliminating drinking, gambling and further unhealthiness. Camp, aspiring medical practitioner, said broken bones and head knocks were good lessons under proper guidance. So-called scientific boxing “works admirably” for a sporting man, he told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“I have found by actual experience in training teams for several years that nothing aids a ball player more than good, hard sparring,” Camp said. “It teaches him to be constantly on his guard, keeps his eye always on the alert, and quickens his movements, making him spry, active and stirs up the blood.”

Camp’s philosophy was put to test at Yale one week later, with tragic outcome. His intramural boxing matches produced a critically injured student, Oliver Dyer, Jr., age 24. Camp, the fight organizer and referee a month shy of his 26th birthday, projected full responsibility onto Dyer for sustaining brain-spine trauma, his getting decked in PE activity. To blame Yale or mere “sparring” in “soft gloves” would be a mistake, Camp told the press. “The secret of the whole trouble is that Dyer was in no condition to enter the ring,” Camp pleaded, adding the student boxer seemed “dazed” prior to the fight. Camp said Dyer had trained improperly and likewise sinned for imbibing alcohol “the night before the set-to.”

“He was literally un-strong,” Camp attested of the medium-built Dyer. The larger opponent whom Camp approved, R.B. Williams, treated Dyer “very lightly, and did not knock him down as has been reported. He is a careful hitter.” Camp added, “Williams struck him a half-dozen left-handers about the face, and then I noticed that [Dyer’s] knees began to double under him and he fell backward.”

“He was fainting from excitement,” Camp said. “As he was going, a left-hander from Williams took him on the chin, and set his head back. He sank to the floor, and as unfortunately could be, his head struck the edge of the narrow board that forms the boundary of the ring in the gymnasium, with sufficient force to snap his neck.”

Dyer suffered in primitive hospital care of the time, paralyzed and mostly comatose over six days, before succumbing on March 14. An editorial critic or two commented, and Yale administrators and Walter Camp moved on from their boxing death. The general public and news media didn’t care, really.

American spiral of denial also muted fatalities of popular football, of course, and would do so at Yale and Harvard, soon, among major colleges hosting the blood sport.

IV.  1880s Football Reforms Finally Succeed, Officials Say, and News Parrots Message

College educators fretted over football’s festering concerns in the mid-1880s; some proposed establishing a central faculty body to draft rules and govern enforcement. But Brown president E.G. Robinson felt above it all. Robinson only allowed Brown students to play football on campus and in local Providence, among themselves and against clubs nearby. And that solved every issue, Robinson said smugly, including expense and safety.

“Brown does not indulge in athletics; she pleads guilty to that indictment of our friend of Yale. She is sadly behind the age,” Robinson told an alumni gathering at Delmonico’s restaurant in Manhattan, hours after Dyer’s death of Yale boxing under Camp. “There is no professor of pugilism at Brown,” assured Robinson. “There are no annual sparring matches there. She has no football team which ranges the country from Toronto to Tallahassee, exhibiting the elegant brutality of breaking shins and endangering spinal columns.

“Our small college is educating Rhode Islanders for their work in life and is doing much for New York in remedying the defects of the large colleges. Brown will do its best, our friends of Yale and Harvard, to help you to positions of real usefulness.”

Robinson’s remarks drew laughter, applause, along with editorial salutes in New York. But plaudits faded as Brown students predictably hurt each other in campus football. Rib fracture led a crippled sophomore to drop classes, depart for home, and a freshman sustained “serious” head injury at bottom of a football pile, according to newspapers. In 1886 a nightmare unfolded when Brown sophomore Edwin P. Goodell, 22, suffered injuries in a class scrimmage and died three weeks later, reported The Times.

The football experts, meanwhile, promised they were finally crafting solutions through yet another “reform” phase, no less than IFA’s third of the decade. Supporters spread positive word.

Harvard had allowed only class football for one season, and although severe injuries and fighting still occurred, players and faculty agreed the game was “much improved,” according to a release. In 1886 faculty permitted the Harvard team to resume intercollegiate games with Yale, Princeton and other schools. The Times blared the headline “Harvard Students Rejoice” on front page, commenting: “The wisdom of playing the class games last Fall is now seen. Through the interest aroused by these [campus scrimmages] more men have played the game than ever before, and a greater enthusiasm has been shown.”

Dr. Dudley A. Sargent, Harvard’s pioneering sports M.D. and trainer, blamed “professionalism,” moneyed interests, for harming intercollegiate games and health of players. Harvard’s stepping out of IFA for a year helped all of football, “too good a game to kill,” Sargent said. “Harvard athletics are assuming a purer and in every way a better tone than before.  To give them this tone is our goal. When the strong public sentiment is aroused in the country, other colleges will have to come around to our position.” Sargent said “rough and tricky” football was being eliminated.

Many writers echoed Dr. Sargent. A Philadelphia newsman hit Harvard’s “officious faculty” for interfering, and progressive activist Elizabeth Powell Bond figured supervised football “may be made a safeguard to the morality of students or other young men, whose sedentary life has in it an element of danger.” Football, surmised The New York Herald, prepped a young man for leadership through crisis of industrializing America. “Sometimes the shins, then again the head, and once in a while the ribs feel as though they had been struck by a pile driver; but when a fellow can stand up against these mishaps and is anxious only to win in spite of them, he is in part fitting himself to become a bank president, able to carry the institution through a panic.”

The Times trumpeted both Harvard’s IFA reentry and the sport’s growth in 1886. “Prominent football players” had persuaded editors that “objectionable” elements were cleansed. The Times proclaimed nullification of “brutality and abuses which had crept into the game under the old rules.”

Skeptics knew that Harvard alumni and students had pressured faculty to resume IFA games, especially Yale and Princeton events flush with cash, blossoming as national spectacles. Moreover, cynics understood IFA officials methodically only tinkered with field rules, always short of wholesale change. The rule-makers’ primary moves from 1884 to 1887 were designating a field umpire to aid the referee, instituting automatic player ejection for “unnecessary roughness,” and pledging strict enforcement, moral adherence to code by all parties.

A ridiculing response circulated in Vermont, a state with a decade of football casualties including a boy’s severe TBI and the killing of Corvea. The news commentator abhorred football, suggesting players should consider iron face cages appearing in baseball. “The time has passed when the criterion of human achievement is confined to the low plane of physical prowess.”

Carlisle, Pa., held a grim statistic of three football deaths within 50 years of local memory, most recently for the 1886 game between Swarthmore and Dickinson, two little colleges dreaming big for sports. Dickinson sophomore Harry Garrison died of a brain impact. “Garrison captured the ball [on defense] when his opponents made a rush, and in the scramble that ensued he was thrown backwards with great force. His head struck the earth, or a stone, and ruptured a blood vessel behind the left ear,” a dispatch stated. A physician rushed to Garrison’s prone body but could do nothing.

The Harrisburg Telegraph editorialized the tragedy would “doubtless set thoughtful people to wondering whether, in the appeals to force which football contests encourage and the rules permit, too high a price is not paid for the physical culture they promote or the sport they are supposed to afford.” The Telegraph denounced faulty comparison to other activities:

Doubtless all games demanding fleetness and strength involve a certain degree of peril to participants. Death has resulted from an accidental blow with a ball or bat. Men have ridden to their death while engaged in the exciting sport of the race course. But it is not the purpose of the ball player to injure his opponent, nor of the jockey to put his life in peril. Therefore these cases are not analogous to accidents in football. In this game the object of the players on one side at certain stages is to stop the progress of their opponents, and the rules seemingly permit any degree of force to be used which accomplishes the result desired.

Football, “even under the new rules, is as dangerous as ever,” sports writer Jacob Morse observed in 1887. “The Amherst College team has been completely crippled by injuries to its players, while the Williams eleven have suffered much from injuries on the field… No one can deny, in the face of these facts, that a player goes into a game almost carrying his life in his hands.”

But football leaders did deny blame for injuries, as casualty reporting accelerated in newspapers. American football couldn’t stem its patent violence, but officials could influence information and public opinion. And football associates aided the denial—educators, doctors and newsmen.

Elite teams typically disclaimed responsibility for injuries and sickness among players, or conveyed nothing occurred at all. In early 1884, Camp of Yale contended that “not one of our men ever [has] been injured in the championship Rugby games” of IFA. “This is largely due to the system of training employed.” But med-student Camp was overlooking Yale’s publicized casualties in IFA games or “championship series” for years—including his own disabling injuries and those of teammates like F.M. Eaton, bedridden ill for a fractured collarbone. And publicized casualties rose on Big Three teams after Camp’s claim, unsurprisingly, with multiple calamitous cases occurring through decade’s end, whether football link could be verified or discounted.

A Harvard player died suddenly in June 1884, strongman Aaron Crane, while training for football and leading the school’s champion tug-of-war team. “The [coroner’s] inquest shows that his death was due to heart disease, and was brought on by overexertion in the gymnasium,” newspapers reported. But Dr. Sargent, Harvard’s famed gym director, dismissed talk of cardiac illness among his athletes. “That is absurd,” said Sargent, respected designer and marketer of training equipment and programs. “This belief is due to a misapprehension. I may have sometimes told men they had some tendency to heart trouble. Then, they have immediately rushed away and have said I told them they had heart disease.”

Sargent said athletes must follow his training protocols, and the sports doctor pledged to conduct regular medical assessment for Harvard teams. He suggested individuals were at fault.  “Last year there were men in the crew, in the baseball nine, and in the football team, who had no business there,” Sargent said. “They didn’t keep the rules of training, and were not manly enough to let the people know about it until it was too late. I shall see that nothing of that sort happens again.”

Results were mixed-bag. Apparently no other Harvard football player died from 1884 to 1887, given available e-texts, but many were hurt seriously despite Sargent’s training and monitoring. Newspapers covered injuries for prominent players, and at least three Harvard stars played following severe brain trauma—W.B. Phillips, H.E. Peabody, and George Adams—while another hovered near death of chest trauma.

A “concussion of the brain” devastated Phillips in 1884, reportedly, an incident that prompted Harvard faculty to halt intercollegiate football. Neural specialists publicly warned of permanent disorder from brain trauma, yet Phillips was re-injured playing football, the 1885 campus games touted as safe by Sargent and players—Phillips himself. Finally Phillips quit football after repetitive TBI during Harvard’s return to IFA competition.

Adams, meanwhile, was knocked unconscious in 1883 and retired from football, supposedly, only to return three years later, pressed to play against juggernaut Yale amidst Harvard’s team rebuilding. Albert “Bert” Holden was Harvard’s brawling, butting captain before a foe crushed him with a knee-drop in 1887, causing sternum fracture and “nervous shock” that hospitalized him for weeks. The brilliant Holden, a genuine student-athlete injured throughout college, didn’t play football again.

Harvard casualties symbolized by Holden, among campus football problems in continuum, emboldened faculty members to again demand the sport be abolished. But their second rebellion was quashed. A Harvard professor celebrated in print, evolutionist Nathaniel Shaler, declaring football “cultivates swift judgment, endurance, and self-confidence, without which even the naturally brave can never learn to meet danger.”

Casualty accounts dotted Yale news, naturally, with intense focus on this greatest team. Yale stories were overwhelmingly positive and typically glorified Camp—“the great football authority,” gushed The Philadelphia Inquirer—but he bristled at muckraking reporters, such nosy outsiders. “I am sadly aware that the present tendency is to depreciate all games and exercise, and frown on strength and courage as old-fashioned things,” Camp stated for friendly pressmen in 1886. “It takes a brave man to play football constantly, and I believe it is well to have some game where courage is needed.”

Camp always took credit for instilling theoretical benefits of football, character lessons for players, but he and Yale cohorts dodged responsibility for tangible casualties, according to a wealth of historical evidence in news, books, Camp personal papers and other collections. Yale culture maintained a rough edge, like many “manly” institutions of the 1880s. Students partied, brawled, wrestled and gambled—wagering on football games as a body. Upperclassmen gangs attacked freshmen on campus and in town, thrashing newcomers bloody in “cane rush,” stripping away clothing, sending victims to hospital. Yale tolerated select violence and casualty, contributing perhaps to the football program’s nonchalance about injuries, and standard no comment.

Yale football was a physical maw, grinding up its players and foes alike during 49 victories over 50 games from 1883 to 1888. Some seasons Yale allowed zero points while scoring hundreds. Yale players savored peerless winning but paid mightily, with newsmen reporting a spectrum of health problems on the team, including: TBI or “concussion,” bone fracture from skull to feet, eye injury, nose bleed, laceration of mouth and tongue, broken teeth, organ rupture, chest trauma, stretched and torn ligature and cartilage, hematoma, fever, pleurisy, pneumonia and more ailments. Yale officials said little, beyond disputing casualty data and football blame in newspapers. Conflicting information muddled two deaths among Yale football players of the 1880s.

John A. Palmer was a Yale practice player, aspiring for the “university eleven,” when he died of a brain hemorrhage in autumn 1885. Palmer hadn’t played football for 24 hours, minimally, but doctors said such “violent exercise” spurred cerebral bleeding in the left ventricle, discovered postmortem. A New Haven physician and Yale alumnus, Dr. William O. Ayres, also attended the autopsy. He concluded differently, saying football wasn’t involved with Palmer’s death. Ayres, a Yale med-school graduate prior to the Civil War, said a diseased kidney triggered the brain clot. Finally, a local inquest determined brain trauma was culprit, but the medical examiner blamed impromptu wrestling prior to Palmer’s collapse, not football, according to newspapers.

Yale athletic officials flatly denied culpability in the second fatality. George Watkinson was a promising, popular halfback and New Haven native whose death ignited anger in the Northeast. Watkinson and star Yale quarterback Harry Beecher had fallen gravely ill following the Thanksgiving game at Princeton, in driving cold rain. Watkinson didn’t recover, succumbing on Dec. 14, 1886. The New York Sun reported Watkinson had nursed injury prior to the frigid drenching “but continued to play, took cold, and died.” The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle opined American football had hit “a setback.”

Not so, countered Yale football players and supporters. Eugene L. Richards, math professor and father of Yale football stars, speculated the robust Watkinson arrived at Princeton already sick with malaria. “Professor Richards said [on Dec. 17] that so far as he knew, the visit to Princeton was not the direct or indirect cause of Watkinson’s death,” stated a release from New Haven. “The game ought not to be proscribed because of his death, as he probably had the germs of the disease in his system, which were only waiting a chance to break out.” Yale president Timothy Dwight declined comment on the matter.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle blasted lack of contrition at Yale and throughout IFA territory. Eagle editors fumed that “lunatics” staged the Princeton game in horrid weather, editorializing:

The death of that fine athlete of Yale, young Watkinson, teaches a lesson the Faculties of the universities of Harvard, Yale and Princeton should ponder well, and it is that the game of foot ball as now played in the Intercollegiate Association is unfit for collegians as a physical exercise calculated to build them up to withstand the mental pressure their collegiate studies subject them to. It is nothing more than a game in which low, vulgar wrestling and fighting have become the main feature. There is but one game of foot ball which college students should play, and that is the English Association game…

Soon after, Yale struck back at naysayer journalists and more perceived adversaries during an alumni function at Delmonico’s. “Yale Men Talk About Athletics and Abuse The Press,” headlined The New York Tribune. Professor Richards spoke along with Robert Corwin, who was the football captain, a future Yale dean, and future NCAA delegate. Corwin “praised [football] and bitterly resented attacks on it,” The Tribune reported. “He said that there were two kinds of football, one, the noble game, and the other the fanatical fabrication of the reporters’ imagination.”

Many writers agreed with Corwin and apparently at his Yale, where campus press supposedly squelched negative information about football. The Yale allegation was dropped by Alfred P. Dennis, managing editor of The Princetonian paper, where editorial staff included football players. Former Princeton president James McCosh once lamented publicly how that campus paper “was often given up” to football interests. He added, “I have asked the faculty to devise effective measures to avert these extremes. A committee has prepared a careful report on the subject.”

That didn’t work, based on subsequent remarks of the editor Dennis. Speaking at a collegiate press convention in Philadelphia, 1890, Dennis was frank in qualifying Princetonian journalism ethic as situational when it came to football. Notably, he said, casualties were ignored. The college editor’s speech was titled Suggestions as to the Eradication from the Public Mind of the Growing Sentiment Against the Game of Football.

“During the last three years there have been fully a score of men temporarily laid off the Princeton practicing elevens through injuries received on the football field,” Dennis said. “None of these men have received permanent injuries, and none are ready now to regret that they ever donned the canvas jacket. In rare instances legs and collar bones have been broken, but any mention of the same has been vigorously excluded from the college publications. The same thing may be said in regard to the Yale News. We never read in its pages an account of football injury, except, perhaps, the casual notice that some man is temporarily incapacitated for play on the eleven.”

“Princeton men go further than this in case of serious injury on the football field,” the editor continued, pointing to a wider network for effecting positive illusion. “The correspondents for the daily papers have received official instructions to let their ‘Yea be yea and their nay, nay,’ concerning the matter,” he said. “Correspondents have been officially sat upon for breaches in this direction, until only one or two remain in Princeton College, unto this day, who [report] ‘blood and thunder’ style.”

Dennis had advice for student writers in football, “two methods which contribute to still the tongues of the defamers of the sport. Along both general lines the college press can have a very powerful and salutary influence. The first thing… is the suppression of reports that would injure the game in the eyes of the public, and, secondly, there must be a constant and well defined effort to educate the public eye to see science in the game as well as the manifestations of brute force.”

Trend in public criticism of football was “unfortunate,” said the college editor. “In the last few years the game has largely vindicated itself in the eyes of the general public as an open, manly sport.”

V.  Late 1880s: Amoral Football and Serious Health Issues Are History, Say Educators, Theologians, Newsmen

In North Carolina of autumn 1888, student football teams organized quickly for intercollegiate games under IFA rules. A young Yankee educator, John F. Crowell, led tackle football’s campaign  in the southern state.  Football had been played on North Carolina campuses, different game versions, but American style flourished when Crowell arrived from Yale, taking over as president of Trinity College. Football fans were delighted, such as newspaper men in Raleigh.

“We are glad to see the game of foot-ball coming into popularity. It is one of the noblest of American games,” opined The Raleigh News and Observer, speculating “several thousand” would attend a Thanksgiving match between Trinity and Wake Forest. “Those who miss the game will regret it,” the paper declared.

President Crowell coached football at tiny Trinity. Additionally, as a former Yale sports writer and boxer, he penned football how-to stories and more promotion for Raleigh publications. “It is marvelous how this game transforms some slow-motioned and easy-going students into quick-sighted and ready, active athletes,” Crowell wrote, channeling Camp theory. “Nothing has done more than this interest in athletics to attach them to their College home. They will have strong, toughened bodies and good blood to bear up a mind.”

“As a rule the players can make the game a dangerous one or a safe one,” Crowell told readers in Camp mantra. Crowell, who played intramural football at Yale, instructed Carolinians:

No one is capable of judging this game until he has played in it. As a spectator he may consider it dangerous to the players. But it is dangerous only to the timid or the reckless, while to the one who plays either with a cool desperation or a furious energy there is no danger… Three years ago [football] was regarded as necessarily dangerous, but since then the feeling between the leading teams has improved and the temper of the game become milder… Every exhibition of pluck, whether foiled or not, should be acknowledged promptly by the lookers-on.

Despite Carolina papers’ pregame hype only 600 people saw Trinity defeat Chapel Hill, a small fraction compared to big games in New York.  Some reporters raved, anyway. “Long life to the game of foot-ball!” cheered The Charlotte Observer. “This was the first scientific game of foot-ball ever played in the State and was appreciated to the full extent by the good people of Raleigh,” chimed The News and Observer. The Raleigh paper decided YMCA football facilities were required at state university in Chapel Hill, like at Yale, and editors solicited a $10,000 public offering “to build and endow such a centre of spiritual life and light.”

Muscular Christianity was a football benefit, swore proponents. A player learned moral strength for conquering evil impulse and behavior, according to football stars of Yale and Princeton, waving their Bibles. The notion was hawked in pious North Carolina, where education—and thus football—lay in control of theologians, divinity scholars. Indeed, it was the Reverend John Crowell as president at Trinity College, endowed by Methodists.

But many religious folks were appalled at football. Criticism unfurled at a brawling Trinity player and for injuries in a contest at the state capital, where a compound leg fracture startled spectators. “The game is entirely too rough,” commented The Raleigh Christian Advocate. “One young man was badly hurt, another slightly hurt, and several were bruised up… we would advise those concerned to quit the match games of foot ball.” Legislative clerk D.B. Nicholson intoned that football was cruel and immoral, “behind our civilization,” in commentary for Weekly State Chronicle. “It promotes betting and breeds dissipation.”

Wake Forest’s pastor president, Reverend Charles E. Taylor, denounced football at his college and others. “These games, as actually played, are dangerous and verge upon brutality,” Taylor wrote for The Biblical Recorder in Raleigh. “Colleges have other purposes in view than those which are fostered by these contests.”

Players denied football caused serious injuries, and Trinity president Crowell continued fighting for the sport reviled by many Carolinians. The state Methodists convention eventually abolished Trinity football and Crowell resigned amidst acrimony, overshadowing his accomplishments in modernizing the curriculum and leading campus relocation into Durham—where the college would expand, becoming known as Duke University. In departing, Crowell ridiculed critics of football as dumb, cowardly people. And while Rev. Crowell hadn’t publicly espoused enrollment enhancement for organizing blood sport at the college—he always declared manly, moral education as his motive—he predicted Trinity would lose students without football.

Crowell fashioned himself a prophet without appreciation in North Carolina, and certainly football-boosting educators like him won accolades elsewhere. The religious institution was warming to tackle football in many regions, as theologians increasingly reached for the glittering possibility while praying against potential catastrophe.

The national publicity of Yale’s Christian athletes encouraged religious schools to adopt tackle football. “It is a somewhat remarkable fact that Yale’s most prominent athletes in latter years have also been her most devoted workers in the Y.M.C.A.,” The New York Sun observed in 1889. The paper claimed hundreds of student “carousers” at Yale had been converted to “Christian workers” under guidance of religious athletes, particularly Amos Alonzo Stagg, football All-American and baseball star. Stagg prayed openly before athletic contests, and The New York Times narrated how a fatherly Yale professor once mentored the young leader “to tell and show the boys that a student could be a Christian while engaged in athletics.”

Catholic priests embraced football at little Notre Dame College, just across the Indiana border from Chicago. Notre Dame’s new football team promptly claimed the bi-state “championship,” although local parishioners might’ve cringed over the divine manly casualties. Conventional medicine wouldn’t have sanctioned the “rough” game between Notre Dame and Northwestern in 1889. One news scribe reported a Notre Dame player was “seriously injured,” possibly to lose an eye, while another “had his jaw badly smashed.” But a different newsman wrote in the football perspective—also reflective of emerging sports medicine—that viewed injuries as generally harmless:

CHICAGO, Nov. 15—The Notre Dame (Ind.) university eleven played a game of football yesterday at Evanston with the Northwestern university eleven, and “did up” the Northwestern boys in great shape, winning by a score of 9 to 0. Nobody was badly hurt, but several of the players limped off the field in a very bunged-up condition. Capt. Hepburn, of the Notre Dame team, dropped a row of teeth and fractured his jaw in one of the first scrimmages. Another Notre Dame man had his head pushed into the ground, and retired minus a large patch of his face.

Many news writers explained football violence as deceptive, not nearly as dangerous as appearances. Scribes suggested poor eyesight for anyone who saw blood-letting, versus transcendent sport with an occasional accident. In Delaware, The Wilmington News Journal opined “there is something superbly brutal about it which compels admiration.”

A raucous Pennsylvania affair between prep academy and seminary produced a nose laceration, a kneecap dislocation and two TBI cases, reported The Wilkes-Barre Sunday Leader—“But it was a great game of football.” The Wilkes-Barre Record added, “In fact the game was replete with brilliant rushes and fine tackles. Several claims of foul tackling were made but it is doubtful if they were intentional.”

At the University of Michigan, a student suffered lumbar damage and a severed earlobe during class scrimmaging that was “lots of fun just the same,” remarked The Detroit Free Press. In Washington, D.C., “Foot ball is really nothing like as dangerous as it looks if the two teams are in training and play the game as it ought to be played,” stated The Evening Star. “If the players are properly trained and know how to tackle and to fall when tackled, the danger is greatly lessened.”

John L. Sullivan was incredulous, iconic Boston pugilist reputedly violent in various settings. “John L.” charged America for seeing double, simultaneously adoring football while scorning prizefighting, his sport banned in most jurisdictions. “The dudes lay each other up playing football, and the women go out and watch ’em pound each other,” Sullivan said after New York police shut down his boxing match. “It ain’t a square deal.”

The Oregonian articulated in the West, editorializing: “There is a great deal of nonsense about ‘physical culture’ and ‘scientific athletics.’ ” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle sneered at football in 1888, as it had for a decade editorially. Football constituted a “preposterous subject,” the paper termed, labeling young players naïve. “In after years when the pains of rheumatism become periodically sensible in disjointed limbs and when crutches lose their novelty, some of these young apostles of muscular Christianity may repent their early enthusiasm.”

Yet player groups and colleges dove into hosting collision football. Students organized teams at large universities in Pittsburgh, Georgetown, Nashville, Atlanta, Athens, New Orleans, Little Rock, Austin, St. Louis, Iowa City, Lawrence, Topeka, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berkeley, Palo Alto, and Salem, Ore. A college administration would either adopt a campus club or found the “university eleven” outright, pledging money, facilities and more support.

By end of the 1880s regional football loops were active far beyond the Northeast. Colleges competed against each other under IFA rules in North Carolina, Ohio, Indiana-Illinois, and California. A western football league was gelling among universities in Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

A public football mass grew within the sport, funded by taxpayers and students, more welfare sources. The public obviously subsidized teams at state colleges and for “government football” of West Point Academy, Naval Academy, Army and Navy posts, and Native American schools. That fostered dissent among lawmakers, military officers and parents, but public football also moved into high schools and grade schools, shepherded by male principals and teachers, to leech educational resources. High-school loops played collision football in the metro areas of New York City-New Jersey, D.C. and Virginia, Chicago, and San Francisco-Oakland. Football crimped public space and manpower for handling traffic, field security, parades, street celebrations and riots. Police departments were pressed, among entities of municipalities and states.

American football plowed forward in growth and popularity, but trouble overtook college rule-makers once again by 1888. Bloodshed was rising and The Oakland Tribune urged West Coast teams to drop IFA code, resume the Association kicking game. Across country, in Boston, The Courier declared: “The modern game of football is savage, and its brutality far exceeds any claim it may have to be considered ‘scientific.’ ” The New York Sun determined American football was unreasonably dangerous and should be banished from education unless a last-chance “reform” succeeded.

But the fresh IFA experts, led by Walter Camp, were running out of ideas. “Fewer than a dozen young men, all representing elite universities and relatively privileged classes, controlled the game during these crucial early years,” observed cultural historian Michael Oriard, in his 1994 analysis Reading Football: How the Popular Press Created an American Spectacle. “The creators of American football seem to have had power but little control, as they revised the rules again and again.”

The measures of 1888 would stand as milestone, if not for safety success. Rule-makers finally sanctified offensive “blocking” for runners, which had been illicit but commonplace during 12 years of American code. Establishment of a line of scrimmage and elimination of the rugby scrum in 1880 had necessitated blocking in front of ball-carriers, rendering anti-rules obsolete and unenforceable ever since. The second significant change had been championed by Camp, a rule permitting “low tackling,” hitting a ball-carrier from waist down to knees—and ratified “with disastrous unforeseen consequences,” Oriard noted. Now it was easier to take down an elusive runner in open space. Lower tackling “virtually eliminated open-field running, led to increasingly brutal (and boring) mass play, altered the very shape of football players by tilting the advantage overwhelmingly toward sheer bulk, and necessitated the development of padded armor to protect the newly vulnerable players,” Oriard concluded a century later.

Many Americans didn’t view football as problematic in 1888, when 15,000 attended the Yale-Princeton game in New York. Some reporters carped at referee Camp and his umpire for their officiating debacle on Thanksgiving, failing to penalize head-butting between Penn and Wesleyan [see Part I, introduction]. But other scribes made no mention. The Philadelphia Inquirer informed readers that game had been “well played.” The popular press generally trusted the anointed football experts, once again, for so-called reform. The meta-narrative, once again, portrayed football hazards as diminished.

“Many of the rough features have been cast out and the rules have changed, improved and altered [play],” The New York Tribune opined. The Sun added: “Football is a beautiful game. It is a science. Too many people do not appreciate it because they see only the fighting, and the blood and mud-stained warriors. They ought to look on it as the real warfare of college men in times of peace.” The Pittsburgh Press quoted an anonymous player who said new rules meant “more precautions are taken to prevent accidents in football than in baseball.”

Official talking points of safer and beneficial football were galvanizing. Just two components remained to plant in public conscience and opinion: “proper” contact and “protective” equipment. Camp and fellow experts would tend the task.

VI. ‘Proper’ Tackling, ‘Protective’ Equipment Set The Rhetoric of Football Advocacy, 1889 Beyond

American football matured as national entertainment on Thanksgiving Day of 1889, with games staged coast to coast despite a prevailing pelt of rain and snow. Thousands collectively attended games in New York City, Syracuse, Elmira, Newport, Washington, Annapolis, Charlottesville, Richmond, Raleigh, New Orleans, Cincinnati, Detroit, Indianapolis, Chicago, Omaha, Salt Lake and Los Angeles, among locales. Gate numbers ranged from a few hundred to the 25,000 paid in Manhattan for the college championship won by Princeton over Yale—the latter’s first defeat in five seasons. An estimated 5,000 were turned away at the gate, so many claimed vantage spots along bluffs overlooking the Polo Grounds. Telegraphic and telephoned news of the Princeton victory sparked celebrations as far west as Minneapolis, where happy fans wore orange-and-black in the streets and taverns.

Casualty accounts, including cases of severe brain injury and bone fracture, were obscured in voluminous football news of the holiday weekend. A 14-year-old boy died in New Jersey “from the effect of a kick while playing football,” per one sentence placed under “Brief Mention” in a newspaper. As if on cue out West, an opinion-page piece suggested a few must sacrifice for the larger good of glorious football, not to mention Anglo Saxon hegemony. The Los Angeles Herald editorialized:

Those were great “rushes made on the football fields [Thanksgiving]. … Some over-sensitive mammas will no doubt lie awake and bewail the disjecta membra of their boys, and these same mammas will suffer more from headache than the boys will from bruises. … It is much to be lamented that one or two of the brave fellows who made these “rushes” should perhaps be maimed or lamed for life. … There must be more or less vicarious suffering in the world, and the individual must take hard knocks in order that the race may work out its manifest destiny.

No one knew casualty rate in American football, whether small or substantial. But injury incidents spiked in newspaper coverage after the rule changes of 1888, for the content sampling of this investigator in 2016.

Regardless, the usual suspects, individuals mostly unidentified, were basically blamed for football carnage in 1889. “Football is a healthful and entertaining sport if properly conducted,” opined The Lawrence Daily Journal after Thanksgiving in the Midwest. “ The reports from all sections, of broken arms and limbs, and of scenes of ruffianism that would do discredit to a prize fight are due to the participation of ruffians in the sport.”

Later, the historian Oriard [1983], former Notre Dame and NFL player, argued that football’s popularity actually relied on risks and casualties to have captivated generations of Americans. “Football becomes contact ballet,” Oriard proposed of its thrilling athleticism in face of annihilation, writing for The New York Times. “Injuries are not aberrations in football, or even a regrettable byproduct. They are essential to the game.” Reform to dramatically curtail injuries was impossible from the beginning of American football, Oriard argued. “I cannot imagine that happening without a profound change in the entire culture. Rule makers are very conscious of what fans want.”

It’s logical to assume Walter Camp, 30, fully grasped injury factor and prevention obstacles for contact football in 1889—particularly regarding brain trauma and potential damage—for his résumé as player, coach, referee, rule-maker, football writer, consultant, and, by this time, a med-school dropout. Regarding TBI, Camp must have grasped tackle football’s dilemma and potential consequences both legal and ethical. Camp surely knew neural specialists had diagnosed “concussion of the brain” for decades, of varying severity—and, presumably, he was intelligent enough to know clinical evidence strongly indicated brain trauma could lead to permanent disorder. Brain disease of head blows had been publicized in criminal trials since the early century, proposed by defendants and doctors, with the term “traumatic insanity” becoming standard in the 1880s. In 1888 New York neurologists examined boxers for “swollen ear” indicator of brain disorder, with jarred-up football players mentioned as ripe for study. Camp had witnessed countless TBI cases on football fields since his playing days, and in Yale’s vicious intramural boxing he helped stage. But he didn’t publicly discuss TBI in context of football, implying to the public that little or no danger existed for players.

Camp likewise ignored head-butting of Yale and all teams, apparently long as he could. American football’s rampant head-ramming had always been classified illegal, a conflict culminating with Camp and fellow referees catching heat for hardly citing the butting violation. Camp’s IFA committee quietly edited code in 1889, removing the term “butting” from IFA rules thereafter. [Not until 1976 would unenforceable anti-butting rules reappear in football, promoted along with “heads up” contact by officials of the NCAA and National Federation of State High School Associations.]

Action beyond scrubbing language was needed in 1889, nevertheless, because head tackles were known lethal, including for killing a former Yale player at the University of California. So American football coaches emphasized “low tackling,” striking with a shoulder and eyes up, head out of harm’s way—seed theory for “head up” teaching and campaigns to begin in next decade. The technique produced dubious results that season, since real-time hitting often required ramming or leveraging with the head and neck. Butting was imperative in the head-on contact of scrimmage line, for instance, but football officials insisted headless forward-colliding could be taught.

Camp and even his wife, Alice, preached “low tackling” to Yale players, who were long reputed as the worst for butting. Yale captain A.A. Stagg, famed Muscular Christian and YMCA leader, commonly rammed foes, bleeding from the nose himself in multiple games, per news accounts. But he rigged a dummy bag for teaching proper technique in November 1889, suspending a mattress for team tackling practice.

Harvard captain Arthur Cumnock had his own “dummy rusher,” meanwhile, for tackling drill. Cumnock tried a tree log then suspended a heavy bag to strike low with a shoulder while keeping head aside. “A stripe is painted around the bag, and if the player embraces the dummy above this stripe he makes a foul tackle,” reported The New York Times.

The enterprising Cumnock also designed so-called protective equipment that evolved toward introduction of leather helmets within a few years. In 1889 Cumnock constructed a wire cage to cover a teammate’s broken nose at Harvard, where baseball players previously assembled a metal catcher’s mask to complement rubber teeth guards. But football officials forbade metal armor so Harvard’s captain produced “the improved Cumnock nose mask” made of rubber, also touted to protect teeth. Cumnock’s innovation charged the field of football headgear, hurling technology forward with validity or not.

Head-injured Yale players already wore caps in hope of protection, and a New York Sun columnist joked football “head-gear” should be engineered to withstand 300 pounds of pressure.  It was unclear whether the scribe seriously had in mind football’s ever-increasing player sizes, but large combatants were becoming common, topped by 300-pound behemoths at Dartmouth and Yale.

In retrospect, further signals of 1889 pointed to deep cracks in American football, complex issues to persist and long ring familiar. The blood sport drew followers from every vital institution; government was populated with fan politicians. Sons of President Garfield played college football along with those of powerful lawmakers, federal and state. Rising politician Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt—noted Harvard alumnus, football fan and Muscular Christian—was appointed to committee by the Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Wesleyan professor Woodrow Wilson volunteered to coach football, and someday he’d follow Roosevelt as grid-fan president in the White House.  Macho football also counted loyalists throughout medicine, religion and the print press, along with foundation support of education.

College teams placed bounties on opposing players in 1889, targeting talented foes for injury and removal. Football players purchased insurance coverage for “accident” and death through the international carrier underwriting English rugby. A Chicago high-school team performed the “V trick” wedge to flatten opponents and excite fans, modeling “mass formation” of college heroes. Prep academies advertised tackle football and cultivated publicity as recruiting hotbeds, celebrating their students who reached college stardom. And many Princeton students skipped days of class after their team’s championship won in New York, partying their way back to campus.

There was talk of a premier Big Three league, Yale, Harvard and Princeton exclusively, sans the clinging batch of colleges struggling to resource football programs. Teams talked of securing trainers and sideline doctors, and players assured the public proper falling was scientific and safe. Trainers and doctors of employment promised medical checkups, and players were blamed for injury or malady. A team surgeon earned $10 an hour, double to quadruple the pay of university president. Colleges provided “training table” menu and housing to football players. Football facilities rose in construction privately endowed or not. Football’s amateurism ideal was exposed as farcical on campuses, including prestigious universities. Madison Square Garden hosted indoor football featuring college teams. And The Sun reported a professional “national football league” was conceptualized by A.G. Spalding, business associate of Camp.

Again, little concern was publicly expressed, American response to last when it came to football issues. The talking points of safer play and muscular morality sufficed for society, if not real results, and the parroted rhetoric would fly through controversy and “reform” to span centuries. Football closed 1889 with a flurry of positive publicity, depicting problems as basically gone then.

“Football has come to stay,” journalist Edward B. Phelps surmised. Phelps, Yale grad and future founder of American Underwriter journal, ranked football “American Next” as bedrock tradition. “The crowds of these games are getting bigger every year and there can be no question about the immediate future of the game.”

The Vermont Watchman opined: “Foot-ball is becoming more and more popular in the schools and colleges… It has won this recognition very largely through the efforts of men like Walter Camp of Yale to free it of the objectionable ‘slugging’ feature.”

And The New York Times: “So much has football been improved during the last dozen years that it is likely to hold its popularity. … This year’s amendments in the rules have also been in the direction of diminishing disputes on the field and increasing penalties for unfair conduct.”

The Pittsburgh Daily Post urged citizens and groups to fortify football in this capital of industry. “The organization of a city league of foot-ball teams will be a good thing for the game in Pittsburgh,” the paper editorialized at Christmas 1889. “Football will ever be popular, and its popularity will be added to by a league which has a regular schedule of games. There is plenty of talent in the city for such an organization, and it should be pushed to success.”

In September 1890, Walter Camp and A.G. Spalding Bros. released their new IFA rulebook. Editor Camp summarized his rule committee’s work as “years of careful and well-considered legislation… of captains and delegates from each college through a dozen years.” Camp cited “professionalism” as prime nemesis of college football and swiped at press critics for “ignorance.” Fortunately, he added, “adverse criticism [has] decreased until it has now almost disappeared.” Camp lauded American football’s rapid expansion through the education domain, where “nearly every school and college has a team.”

Editor Camp mentioned neither injuries in his rulebook introduction nor the apparently insolvable butting blows to head and neck. Instead he maintained that intelligent Americans knew football benefits outweighed the risks. “No game has shown such a remarkable vitality in the face of all opposition,” Camp remarked. “It has steadily increased the number of its supporters, and it has no deserters. Every convert becomes an eager advocate of its merits.”

This article is in memory of Li’l Girl, my loyal friend in writing and family life for 15 years. Our beloved herder dog helped this project from research to post. She saw it to the end. Peace, Girl.

Select References

The author stocks additional information in histories, medical literature and news texts,  among media, for this analysis. Also see ChaneysBlog news lines on Heads Up theory and football brain disease.

A Battle. (1886, Nov. 3). A battle of the kickers. New York Sun, p.7.

A Chicago Boy Hurt. (1885, Nov. 18). Chicago Inter Ocean, p.2.

A Classic Cane Rush. (1886, Nov. 21). Saint Paul Globe, p.10

A College. (1876, Nov. 24). A college foot-ball association. New York Times, p.2.

A Coming Sport. (1889, Dec. 1). Pittsburgh Dispatch, p.6.

A Damper On Football. (1886, March 20). Oakland Tribune, p.2

A Fatal. (1878, April 5). A fatal foot-ball match. New York Times, p.3.

A Father [LTE]. (1875, March 25). Football: To the editor of The Times. London Times, England, p.7.

A Feast For Kings. (1889, April 8). New York Evening World, p.1

A Foot Ball League. (1889, Dec. 21). A foot ball league for next season. Pittsburgh Daily Post, p.6.

A Foot-Ball Match. (1876, Dec. 1). A foot-ball match on the Athletic Grounds. New York Times, p.8.

A Football Accident. (1886, Oct. 25). Freeport Journal Standard IL, p.1

A Football Player [LTE]. (1875, March 25). Football: To the editor of The Times. London Times, England, p.7.

A French View. (1888, Sept. 14). A French view of foot ball. Hutchinson News KS, p.3.

A Game Of Football. (1889, Nov. 15). Sterling Daily Gazette IL, p.1.

A Game of Foot Ball. (1887, Nov. 22). Omaha Daily Bee, p.8

A Good Game. (1884, Nov. 25). New York Times, p.5.

A Great Game. (1889, Oct. 21). Wilkes-Barre Record PA, p.4.

A Great Game of Football. (1889, Oct. 20). Wilkes-Barre Sunday Leader PA, p.4.

A Gymnasium. (1880, Jan. 18). A gymnasium needed at Ann Arbor, Detroit Free Press, p.13.

A Harvard Student. (1885, Nov. 12). A Harvard student fatally injured. Lebanon Daily News PA, p.1.

A Huge Joke. (1887, Dec. 9). Harrisburg Telegraph [PA], p.2

A Lady Admirer. (1889, Nov. 9). A lady admirer of high kicking. Wilkes-Barre Evening News PA, p.4.

A Novel Advice. (1889, Nov. 10). St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p.14.

A Plea. (1860, Dec. 1). A plea for amusement and physical culture. Honolulu Polynesian, Hawaiian Islands, p.4.

A Plea. (1888, Feb. 22). A plea for the survival of the old Association rules. Oakland Tribune, p.7.

A Popular. (1888, Nov. 16). A popular out-door game. Washington Critic DC, p.2

A Pugilist’s Objection. (1887, Jan. 3). Frederick News MD, p.5.

A Recent Report. (1879, April 19). A recent report of the New York Board of Health. Raleigh News [NC], p.2.

A Rugby Boy [LTE]. (1870, Nov. 26). Rugby football: To the editor of The Times. London Times, England, p.6.

A Sharp Correspondence [LTE]. (1870, Dec. 22). [No headline or byline] A sharp correspondence has been going on in the London papers…. Leavenworth Times [KS], p.3.

A Sound Conclusion. (1888, May 12). Morning Oregonian, p.4.

A Surgeon [LTE]. (1870, Nov. 26). Rugby football: To the editor of The Times. London Times, England, p.6.

A Vermont Man. (1881, Dec. 3). [No headline or byline] A Vermont man dropped dead…. Winnsboro News and Herald [SC], p.2.

A Victim Of Football. (1885, Nov. 7). Chicago Daily Tribune, p.12.

A Victim To Football. (1886, Nov. 2). New York Times, p.1.

Affairs. (1888, Jan. 30). Affairs at Harvard College, New York Tribune, p.5.

Afraid. (1887, Dec. 12). Afraid of the rules. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p.8.

Alexandria News. (1887, Nov. 30). Washington Critic DC, p.1.

All Sorts. (1879, Jan. 25). Parsons Weekly Sun KS, p.7.

Amateur Football. (1886, Sept. 30). Oakland Tribune, p.3.

Amherst Plays A Tie. (1891, Oct. 8). New York Sun, p.4.

Among The Colleges. (1889, Dec. 15). Philadelphia Times, p.8.

An Active Football Season. (1886, Sept. 6). New York Times, p.5.

An Eye-Witness [LTE]. (1870, Nov. 26). Rugby football: To the editor of The Times. London Times, England, p.6.

An Old Rugbeian [LTE]. (1870, Nov. 30). Rugby football: To the editor of The Times. London Times, England, p.8.

Annual Foot Ball Game. (1887, Oct. 17). Burlington Free Press VT, p.1.

Annual Picnic. (1879, May 13). Arkansas Democrat, p.4.

Arivaca Atoms. (1880, March 2). Tucson Daily Star, p.2.
Athletes Were The Lions. (1888, Feb. 22). New York Times, p.5.

Athletic Follies. (1884, March 20). St. Johnsbury Caledonia VT, p.1.

Athletic Sports At Yale. (1886, Oct. 3). New York Times, p.3.

Athletics. (1884, March 11). Athletics under a cloud. New York Tribune, p.1.

Athletics At Harvard. (1884, March 4). New York Times, p.2.

Athletics At Harvard. (1885, Feb. 25). Philadelphia Times, p.1.

Athletics At Princeton. (1886, Oct. 27). New York Times, p.7.

Atkins, J. (1893, Dec. 20). Aurelius, or Commodus. Raleigh Christian Advocate NC, p.3

Beaten By Lehigh. (1886, Nov. 19). Philadelphia Inquirer, p.2.

Because He Suffered. (1888, Feb. 17). Cincinnati Enquirer, p.5.

Beecher Keeps His Word. (1887, Nov. 11). Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.16.

Behind The Age. (1883, March 15). New York Times, p.8.

Berkeley Items. (1881, Oct. 3). Oakland Tribune, p.3.

Big Ears Of Crazy Men. (1888, Oct. 25). St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p.7.

Big Kicking. (1888, Nov. 4). Big kicking by college boys. New York Tribune, p.5.

Blake, M.E. (1889, Dec. 18). A friendly word for foot ball. Boston Weekly Globe, p.4.

Boston’s Big Man. (1887, Nov. 19). Boston’s big man a feather weight. New York Evening World, p.4.

Brevities. (1879, Feb. 15). Nevada State Journal, p.3.

Brief News Items. (1883, Dec. 6). Richmond Dispatch, p.3.

Brief Locals. (1881, Nov. 24). Baltimore Sun, p.4.

Briefs. (1878, March 16). Hutchinson Herald KS, p.1.

Brown Alumni Dinner. (1884, March 15). New York Tribune, p.5.

Brutality In Sport. (1884, Dec. 2). Burlington Free Press VT, p.2.

Burning. (1889, Nov. 29). [No headline or byline] Burning the midnight oil… . Los Angeles Herald, p.2.

Busch’s Former Partner. (1888, April 25). Busch’s former partner at dancing. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.5.

Camp, W. [Ed.] (1890, June 2). Foot-Ball Rules and Referee’s Book, American Intercollegiate Association. A.G. Spalding & Bros.: Chicago, New York, Philadelphia.

Camp, W. (1891, Oct. 10). The best way to win. Indianapolis News, p.11.

Camp, W.C. [LTE]. (1884, Feb. 27). The new rules for college sports. New York Tribune, p.5.

Cambridge. (1875, Nov. 13). Boston Post, p.3

Canada. (1875, Oct. 24). New Orleans Times Picayune, p.12.

Carlisle Herald. (1886, Oct. 26). Harrisburg Telegraph PA, p.1.

Cause Of. (1860, Dec. 1). Cause of the Harvard College Trouble. Cincinnati Daily Press, p.1.

Chaney, M. (2009). Spiral of denial: Muscle doping in American football. Four Walls Publishing: Warrensburg MO.

Chaney, M. (2014, Oct. 3). King Football infests institutions, misleads public. ChaneysBlog.com.

Chaney, M. (2014, Oct. 24). Cardiac death foils medical tracking in football, all sports. ChaneysBlog.com.

Chaney, M. (2015, Jan. 20). Experts: Football death reports aren’t valid epidemiology. ChaneysBlog.com.

Chaney, M. (2015, Feb. 28). NFL deaths reflect inept care and record-keeping. ChaneysBlog.com.

Chaney, M. (2015, July 28). The 1890s: Brain risks confirmed in American football. ChaneysBlog.com.

Chaney, M. (2016, Jan. 30). 1900-1912: ‘First Concussion Crisis’ for beloved football. ChaneysBlog.com.

Chaney, M. (2016, April 11). News line: ‘Heads Up’ football and policy, 1883-1936. ChaneysBlog.com.

Chaney, M. (2016, May 11). ‘Heads Up’ theory, football helmets and brain disease, 1883-1962. ChaneysBlog.com.

Chaney, M. (2016, May 31). Teddy Roosevelt loved football, except when it brutalized his son. Sports.Vice.com.

Chaney, M. (2016, Nov. 29, 2016). “Slaughter of the innocents”: When D.C. considered banning high school football. Sports.Vice.com.

Changes. (1888, May 21). Changes in the college football rules. New York Tribune, p.5.

Chapel Hill, N.C. (1880, Nov. 20). Orange County Observer NC, p.3.

Checker-Board Foot-Ball. (1889, Dec. 15). Louisville Courier-Journal, p.20.

City And District. (1887, Nov. 26). Washington Evening Star, p.8.

City And District. (1889, Dec. 4). Washington Evening Star, p.8.

City And Suburban. (1886, Nov. 2). City and suburban news. New York Times, p.8.

City Items. (1881, Dec. 7). Topeka Daily Capital KS, p.8.

Cis-Atlantic Matters. (1882, Nov. 10). Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, p. 2.

Club Against College. (1887, Nov. 23). St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p.5.

Clubbe, C.J.B. (1883, Jan. 13) Fatalities from football. British Medical Journal, 83 (1), p.1150.

Collegians At Football. (1879, Nov. 2). New York Sun, p.6.

Collegiate. (1889, Jan. 20). Atlanta Constitution, p.19.

Collegiate Foot-Ball. (1877, Nov. 9). Chicago Daily Tribune, p.3.

College Athletics. (1887, April 14). Baltimore Sun, p.6.

College Athletics. (1888, Dec. 23). New York Sun, p.12.

College Athletics. (1894, Feb. 27). Durham Globe NC, p.1.

College Athletics Sports. (1882, Nov. 4). New York Times, p.4.

College Baseball Prospects. (1883, Dec. 31). New York Tribune, p.3.

College Chit-Chat. (1886, Dec. 25). Philadelphia Inquirer, p.3.

College Christians. (1888, Nov. 25). Philadelphia Inquirer, p.8.

College Clubs. (1884, March 4). St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p.8.

College Diversions. (1881, March 22). New York Times, p.4.

College Foot-Ball. (1882, Nov. 26). New York Times, p.9.

College Foot-Ball. (1883, Nov. 23). New York Times, p.5.

College Foot-Ball. (1883, Nov. 24). New York Times, p.1.

College Foot-Ball. (1888, Dec. 1). Chicago Inter Ocean, p.2.

College Football Games. (1882, Nov. 26). New York Tribune, p.2.

College Football. (1886, Nov. 27). Hazleton Sentinel PA, p.1.

College Kickers. (1888, Nov. 4). Wilkes-Barre Leader PA, p.6.

College Life—No. 4. (1874, June 19). St. Johnsbury Caledonian VT, p.2

College Notes. (1881, Nov. 17). Burlington Free Press VT, p.3

College Notes. (1886, Jan. 11). Philadelphia Inquirer, p.2.

College Rows. (1880, Dec. 18). Philadelphia Times, p.2.

College Ruffianism. (1887, Oct. 5). New York Tribune, p.4.

College Sports. (1884, March 17). Philadelphia Inquirer, p.1.

Columbia Athletes. (1889, Dec. 20). New York Times, p.9.

Columbia Men. (1882, Nov. 26). Columbia men lost at Princeton. New York Tribune, p.2.

Cornell College Notes. (1886, April 30). Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette IA, p.4.

Cost Of College. (1885, Aug. 6). Cost of college athletics. Osage City Free Press KS, p.6.

Crimes And Casualties. (1877, Sept. 3). Burlington Free Press VT, p.3.

Crowell, J. F. (1888, Nov. 27). The American game of foot-ball. Raleigh News and Observer, p.1.

Crowell, J.F. (1887, Dec. 21). President Crowell’s annual report. Raleigh Christian Advocate NC, pp.4,6.

Crowell, J.F. (1939). Personal recollections of Trinity College, North Carolina, 1887-1894. Duke University Press: Durham, NC.

Current Events. (1874, June 4). Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.2.

Current Events. (1885, Nov. 17). Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.2.

Dangerous Athletics. (1883, Dec. 5). Des Moines Register, p.1.

Davis, P.H. (1911). Football: The American intercollegiate game. Charles Scribner’s Sons: New York.

Death. (1884, June 6). Death of a college athlete. Indianapolis News, p.4.

District Brevities. (1882, Nov. 27). Washington National Republican DC, p.4.

Dr. Dudley A. Sargent. (1884, Oct. 5). [No headline or byline] Dr. Dudley A. Sargent of the Harvard gymnasium says… . Chicago Daily Tribune, p.4.

Dr. M’Cosh. (1883, June 21). Dr. M’Cosh remains president. New York Sun, p.3.

Dr. Sargent. (1889, Dec. 1). Dr. Sargent on physical culture. New York Tribune, p.4.

Durham, S.J. [LTE]. (1888, Nov. 1). Foot ball. Raleigh News & Observer, p.4.

Educating. (1888, Dec. 1). Educating the body. New York Times, p.5.

Educational. (1880, Nov. 13). Chicago Inter Ocean, p.11.

Educational Notes. (1886, June 10). Winston-Salem Western Sentinel, p.7.

Educational Notes. (1886,Oct. 16) Salem Statesman Journal OR, p.1.

English Journals. (1881, Jan. 6). [No headline or byline] English journals are paying great attention… . New York Times, p.4

Fair Play [LTE]. (1870, Nov. 30). Rugby football. London Times, p.8.

Fatal Accident. (1879, Oct. 3). Bloomington Pantagraph IL, p.4.

Fatal Football. (1883, May 2). Detroit Free Press, p.4.

Feeling At Yale. (1886, Dec. 17). Chicago Inter Ocean, p.8.

Fine Foot-Ball. (1884, Oct. 30). St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p.8.

Fined. (1859, Feb. 10). Louisville Daily Courier, p.1.

Foot Ball. (1870, Oct. 6). Burlington Free Press VT, p.3.

Foot Ball. (1872, Nov. 18). Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.2.

Foot Ball. (1877, Nov. 28). Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.4.

Foot Ball. (1877, Dec. 16). Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.4.

Foot Ball. (1878, Feb. 16). Statesville American NC, p.1.

Foot Ball. (1878, Dec. 2). Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.3.

Foot Ball. (1879, May 31). Chicago Inter Ocean, p.5.

Foot Ball. (1879, Nov. 23). Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.4.

Foot Ball. (1880, May 12). Salt Lake City Herald, p.4.

Foot Ball. (1880, Oct. 14). Omaha Daily Bee NE, p.4.

Foot Ball. (1880, Nov. 27).Wilkes-Barre Record PA, p.1.

Foot Ball. (1881, Oct. 30). Detroit Free Press, p.3.

Foot Ball. (1881, Dec. 12). Delaware County Times PA, p.3.

Foot Ball. (1883, Dec. 2). Football ball has descended to prize fighting. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.2.

Foot Ball. (1884, Nov. 7). Pittsburgh Post Gazette, p.8.

Foot Ball. (1884, Dec. 7). Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.4.

Foot Ball. (1885, Oct. 12). Philadelphia Inquirer, p.3.

Foot Ball. (1886, Dec. 5). Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.1.

Foot Ball. (1887, De. 25). Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.6.

Foot-Ball. (1864, Feb. 12). Cleveland Daily Leader, p.2

Foot-Ball. (1872, Nov. 17). Foot-ball: The inter-university match between Yale and Columbia. New York Times, p.1.

Foot-Ball. (1875, Nov. 16). Chicago Daily Tribune, p.2.

Foot-Ball. (1875, Nov. 21). Chicago Daily Tribune, p.12.

Foot-ball. (1876, Oct. 3). Louisville Courier-Journal, p.1.

Foot-Ball. (1877, De. 23). Boston Daily Globe, p.8.

Foot-Ball. (1882, Oct. 28). Cincinnati Enquirer, p.4.

Foot-Ball. (1885, Nov. 29). Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.11.

Foot-Ball (1886, June 20). Chicago Inter Ocean, p.5.

Foot-Ball. (1889, March 10). Los Angeles Times, p.7.

Foot-Ball. (1889, Nov. 6). [No headline or byline] Foot-ball is becoming more and more popular… . Vermont Watchman, p.4.

Foot-Ball. (1889, Nov. 28). Cincinnati Enquirer, p.2.

Foot-Ball. (1889, Nov. 28). Los Angeles Times, p.7.

Foot-Ball. (1889, Nov. 29). Richmond Times VA, p.4.

Foot Ball Club. (1883, Oct. 30). San Antonio Light TX, p.3.

Foot Ball Coming. (1888, Oct. 28). Foot ball coming to the front. Raleigh News & Observer, p.4.

Foot Ball Is A Game. (1887, Nov. 21). [No headline or byline] Foot ball is a game that affords… . Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.2.

Foot Ball Rules. (1882, Nov. 9). New York Sun, p.4.

Foot Ball Teams. (1889, March 21). Scotland Neck Commonwealth NC, p.2.

Foot-Ball At Cambridge. (1883, Oct. 14). New York Times, p.9.

Foot-Ball At Hoboken. (1879, Sept. 13). New York Times, p.8.

Foot-Ball At Princeton. (1884, Dec. 26). Chicago Daily Tribune, p.6.

Foot-Ball At Yale. (1872, Nov.28). New York Times, p.2.

Foot-Ball Club Organized. (1885, Nov. 15). Nashville Tennessean, p.1.

Foot-Ball Contests. (1887, Nov. 20). St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p.11.

Foot-Ball Etiquette. (1888, Nov. 30). New York Sun, p.6.

Foot-Ball Fighting. (1881, Nov. 21). New York Times, p.4.

Foot-Ball Is Hot Work. (1889, Nov. 19). St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p.8.

Foot-Ball Match. (1869, Nov. 18). Foot-ball match—Germantown Cricket Club vs. young America Cricket Club. Philadelphia Inquirer, p.3.

Foot-Ball Match. (1869, Nov. 20). Foot-ball match between the Young America and Germantown cricket clubs. Philadelphia Inquirer, p.2.

Foot-Ball Well Started. (1887, Oct. 9). Philadelphia Times, p.2.

Football. (1882, Oct. 30). Chicago Inter Ocean, p.2.

Football. (1884, Nov. 29). Football is great fun. New York Sun, p.1.

Football. (1884, Nov. 15). San Francisco Chronicle, p.6.

Football. (1886, Jan. 7). Philadelphia Inquirer, p.8.

Football. (1888, March 26). San Francisco Chronicle, p.5.

Football. (1888, Sept. 4). New York Sun, p.5.

Football At Evanston. (1889, Nov. 14). Chicago Tribune, p.3.

Football At Harvard. (1885, Nov. 29). New York Times, p.10.

Football At Hoboken. (1882, Nov.12). New York Tribune, p.2.

Football At Lake View. (1889, Oct. 4). Chicago Tribune, p.3.

Football At Notre Dame. (1888, Dec. 7). Chicago Tribune, p.3.

Football Catching On. (1889, Dec. 10). Chicago Tribune, p.7.

Football Has The Call. (1889, Nov. 4). New York Evening World, p.3.

Football Here And There. (1889, Nov. 29). Pittston Evening Gazette PA, p.1.

Football In A Blizzard. (1889, Nov. 29). Indianapolis News, p.1.

Football Is Scientific. (1888, Dec. 23). New York Sun, p.11.

Football Justified. (1890, Dec. 28). Salt Lake Tribune, p.8.

Football News. (1887, Nov. 16). New York Sun, p.5.

Football Notes. (1889, Nov. 16). New York Sun, p.4.

Football Notes. (1889, Nov. 21). New York Sun, p.4.

Football Players. (1892, Nov. 27). New Orleans Times-Picayune, p.17.

Football Rules Changed. (1888,May 7). New York Times, p.1.

Foushee, H.A. (1889, March 22). One of the boys defends the scientific game. Raleigh Weekly State Chronicle NC, p.2.

From Head To Foot. (1883, Nov. 25). Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.12.

From Mechanicsburg. (1877, Aug. 17). Harrisburg Telegraph PA, p.1.

From The Athletic Field. (1889, Oct. 29). Wilmington News Journal DE, p.1.

From The State Capital. (1883, Nov. 29). Baltimore Sun, p.4.

Fun, Fun! (1861, Oct. 31). Pittston Gazette PA, p.2

General News Items. (1888, Oct. 300. The Progressive Farmer NC, p.3.

General Sports. (1880, Nov. 15). Boston Globe, p.2.

General Sports. (1888, Nov. 18). Philadelphia Times, p.6.

Giles College Items. (1880, Oct. 28). Pulaski Citizen TN, p.3.

Gleanings. (1889, Nov. 24). Gleanings from the colleges. Philadelphia Times, p.7.

Good Points Of Foot Ball. (1888, Dec. 12). Pittsburgh Press, p.7.

Got $480. (1888, Dec. 5). Got $480 for seeing the football game. New York Sun, p.6.

Gov. Fowle. (1889, Feb. 15). Raleigh News & Observer, p.1.

Guarding The Young. (1887, May 17). Vicksburg Evening Post MS, p.2.

H.A. Garfield. (1883, Nov. 10). [No headline or byline] H.A. Garfield, the president’s son… . Leavenworth Times KS, p.2.

Harvard Athletes. (1886, Oct. 27). New York Times, p.1.

Harvard Beaten By Yale. (1886, Nov. 21). New York Times, p.9.

Harvard College. (1879, Sept. 5). Chicago Tribune, p.9.

Harvard Gymnasium. (1887, May 26). Hillsboro News-Herald OH, p.5.

Harvard Notes. (1881, Oct. 1). Boston Post, p.4.

Harvard Students Rejoice. (1886, Jan. 7). New York Times, p.1.

Harvard University. (1888, April 29). [No headline or byline] Harvard University has been thrown into a state of consternation. New York Sun, p.16.

Harvard Will Play Foot-Ball. (1886, Jan. 7). Chicago Daily Tribune, p.5.

Harvard Will Play Football. (1885, Oct. 8). New York Times, p.5.

Harvard Wins A Game. (1886, Nov. 26). New York Times, p.5.

Harvard Working Hours. (1879, Sept. 30). New York Times, p.5.

Harvard-Yale Football. (1888, Nov. 15). New York Times, p.1.

Harvard’s Athletic Contests. (1879, March 23). New York Times, p.1.

Harvard’s Coming Team. (1886, Sept. 19). New York Times, p.3.

Harvard’s Football Team. (1887, Oct. 27). New York Sun, p.5.

Harvard’s Hurrah. (1887, Nov. 13). Chicago Inter Ocean, p.1.

Harvard’s New Fall Term. (1886, Oct. 10. New York Times, p.14.

Harvard’s New Year. (1885, Oct. 2). New York Times, p.2.

Haskell Institute. (1887, Nov. 10). Haskell Institute items. Lawrence Daily Journal KS, p.3.

High Kickers. (1887, Dec. 11). Topeka Daily Capital KS, p.1.

Hopkins Academy. (1885, May 15). Hopkins Academy against the high school. Oakland Tribune, p.3.

How To Get Strong. (1879, June 26). Wyandott Herald KS, p.4.

Hurt At Football. (1886, March 12). San Francisco Chronicle, p.3.

Improving. (1887, Oct. 14). Improving a popular game. Des Moines Register, p.4.

In And Outdoor Sports. (1889, Dec. 30). New York Sun, p.6.

In Favor. (1887, Nov. 12). New York Evening World, p.1.

In The Domain Of Sports. (1886, Dec. 18). Chicago Tribune, p. 6.

Infantile Sports. (1841, May 25). New Orleans Picayune, p.2.

Injured. (1887, O)ct. 5). Injured in a cane rush. Pittston Evening Gazette PA, p. 1.

Inter Collegiate Foot-Ball. (1885, Nov. 1). Philadelphia Times, p.2.

Inter-Collegiate Foot-Ball. (1887, March 27). Philadelphia Times, p.2.

Intercollegiate Athletics. (1884, Sept. 5). New York Tribune, p.4.

Intercollegiate Football. (1885, Oct. 11). New York Sun, p.7.

Intercollegiate Football. (1887, Oct. 28). New York Times, p.2.

Interest In Foot-Ball. (1889, Nov. 30). Chicago Inter Ocean, p.4.

It Is Football Season. (1889, Sept. 9). New York Evening World, p.3.

It Is Insisted. (1888, Dec. 8). [No headline or byline] It is insisted in the East… . Saint Paul Globe, p.4.

It Is To Be Noted. (1877, Nov. 22). Philadelphia Times, p.2.

J. [LTE]. (1884, Dec. 1). Letters to the editor. New York Times, p.2.

James H. Campbell. (1887, April 18). [Advertisement] James H. Campbell Insurance. York Daily PA, p.2.

Jenkins, D. [LTE]. (1883, Dec. 11). Mailbox: Putting injuries in their place. New York Times, p.S2.

Johnston, A. (1887, October). The American Game of Football. The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine, 34 (6), pp.888-899.

Kicking As A Science. (1886, Oct. 11). Chicago Inter Ocean, p.2.

Kicking Collegians. (1886, Nov. 7). Chicago Inter Ocean, p.19.

Kicking The Leather Egg. (1879, Nov. 28). New York Times, p.8.

Lake Forest Wins. (1889, Dec. 15). Lake Forest wins at foot-ball. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.2.

Last Of The Series. (1889, March 31). Wilmington Messenger NC, p.1.

Lawrence Letter. (1882, Oct. 12). Burlington Republican KS, p.1.

Lehigh Vs. Naval. (1889, Nov. 29). Lehigh vs. Naval Academy, Baltimore Sun, p.6.

Life At Fort Reno. (1885, Aug. 15). Lehighton Carbon Advocate PA, p.4.

Life At Princeton. (1878, April 6). New York Tribune, p.5.

Lively Rush At Yale. (1886, Sept. 26). New York Sun, p.9.

Local & General. (1883, March 27). Local & general items. Honolulu Evening Bulletin, Hawaiian Islands, p.2.

Local & General. (1883, May 23). Local & general items. Honolulu Evening Bulletin, Hawaiian Islands, p.2.

Local Brevities. (1881, June 4). Arkansas Democrat, p.1.

Local Brevities. (1888, Oct. 17). Arkansas Democrat, p.4.

Local Matters. (1889, March 13). Raleigh Christian Advocate NC, p.3.

Local News. (1878, Jan. 29). Idaho Semi-Weekly World, p.3.

Local Notes. (1888, Oct. 14). Palmyra Spectator MO, p.3.

Lots Of Fun Just The Same. (1886, Nov. 8). Detroit Free Press, p.2.

Lewis, G.M. (1965). The American intercollegiate football spectacle, 1869-1917. University of Maryland: College Park.

Mail Items. (1864, Sept. 14). Cleveland Daily Leader, p.1.

Manly Sports. (1889, March 14). Pittsboro Chatham Record NC, p.2.

Matters At Michigan. (1876, Dec. 10). Matters at Michigan University. Detroit Free Press, p.1.

McGehee, L. (1989, Aug. 15). Wofford and Furman made football history. Spartanburg Herald-Journal SC, p.5.

Medford. (1875, Oct. 28). Boston Post, p.3.

Men Of Mark. (1885, Oct. 17). St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p.4.

Men Of Muscle. (1889, Dec. 25). Los Angeles Times, p.7.

Miscellaneous. (1886, Dec. 26). Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, p.2.

Miscellany (1833, April 17). Salem People’s Press NC, p.1.

More Disgraceful Foot-Ball. (1887, Nov. 27). St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p.6.

Mr. Crimmins. (1883, oct. 220. Mr. Crimmins and the fathers help the Xavier Sodality kick football. New York Sun, p.3.

Mr. DePew. (1887, Feb. 26). Mr. Depew on Governor Hill. New York Tribune, p.4.

Mr. DePew. (1887, Oct. 31). Mr. Depew as missionary, New York Times, p.5.

Muscular Christianity. (1887, Nov. 1). Indianapolis News, p.2.

Muscular Education At Harvard. (1884, Oct. 7). Wilmington Morning News DE, p.4.

Muscular Morality. (1878, June 29). Philadelphia Times, p.2.

Nashville, Tenn. (1885, Nov. 27). Memphis Daily Appeal, p.1.

N.C. Conference. (1893, Dec. 12). Wilmington Morning Star NC, p.1.

Neighborhood Graphics. (1882, July 7). Kirksville Weekly Graphic MO, p.1.

Neither Side Satisfied. (1884, Nov. 29). New York Times, p.2.

New Haven, Conn. (1886, Nov. 11). New York Times, p.5.

New Jersey. (1869, Nov. 9). New York Times, p.8.

New Way of Stating It. (1885, Dec. 26). Topeka Daily Capital KS, p.6.

News From The State Capital. (1889, March 11). Durham Tobacco Plant NC, p.4.

Nicholson, D.B. (1889, March 14). Pittsboro Chatham Record NC, p.2.

No More. (1883, Nov. 23). No more football at Harvard. New York Tribune, p.1.

Normal. (1881, April 15). Bloomington Pantagraph IL, p.3.

Normal Notes. (1883, Feb. 23). Kirksville Weekly Graphic MO, p.3.

Not Caused By Football. (1885, Nov. 12). Lebanon Daily News PA, p.1.

Not Over-Study. (1886, Jan. 3). Not over-study after all. Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, p.1.

Notes From Yale. (1879, Nov. 4). New York Tribune, p.10.

Nothing To Nothing. (1878, Nov. 16). Philadelphia Times, p.1.

Now For The Fray. (1889, Nov. 28). New York Evening World, p.1.

Observer [LTE]. (1860, Nov. 2). The foot-ball nuisance. St. Johnsbury Caledonian VT, p.2.

Ohio Championship. (1889, Nov. 29). Cincinnati Enquirer, p.2.

On Defensive Play. (1891, Nov. 29). Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.12.

On The Football Field. (1889, Nov. 4). New York Sun, p.4.

Orange And Black Wins. (1888, Nov. 18). New York Times, p.3.

Organizing. (1880, Nov. 20). Organizing a foot ball club. Colorado Springs Weekly Gazette, p.5.

Oriard, M. (1883, Nov. 20). Why football injuries remain a part of the game. New York Times, p. S2.

Oriard, M. (1883, Dec. 11). In Jenkins, D. [LTE]. Mailbox: Putting injuries in their place. New York Times, p.S2.

Oriard, M. (1994). Reading football: How the popular press created an American spectacle. University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill.

Other Games. (1889, Nov. 29). New Orleans Times Picayune, p.7.

Our Common Schools. (1880, Oct. 2). New York Times, p.8.

Our Exchanges. (1889, March 18). Durham Tobacco Plant NC, p.2.

Our New York Letter. (1884, Nov. 29). Philadelphia Inquirer, p.3.

Outdoor Amusements. (1880, Nov. 9). New York Sun, p.4.

Outdoor Amusements. (1880, Nov. 20). Sacramento Record-Union CA, p.3.

People. (1887, May 4). Detroit Free Press, p.3.

People And Events. (1889, Nov. 23). Chicago Inter Ocean, p.4.

Personal And General. (1874, May 16). Rutland Daily Globe VT, p.1.

Personal Mention. (1885, Nov. 24). Chicago Inter Ocean, p.8.

Personals. (1884, Oct. 5). Chicago Tribune, p.4.

Phelps, E.B. (1889, Sept. 7). Football next. Lancaster Daily Intelligencer PA, p.6.

Phillips Vs. Adams. (1880, Nov. 15). Boston Globe, p.2.

Physical Culture. (1883, Feb. 18). Physical culture in colleges. New York Tribune, p.6.

Physical Culture. (1888, Dec. 5). Philadelphia Inquirer, p.3.

Physical Exercise. (1890, Nov. 9). St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p.24.

Physical Training. (1883, March 25). Washington Post, p.4.

Playing At Foot-Ball. (1875, Nov. 19). New York Sun, p.5.

Playing Foot-Ball. (1888, Nov. 27). Nashville Tennessean, p.5.

Polo And Foot Ball. (1879, July 9). Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.1.

Poser, M.S. (1947, Oct. 31). Football in the ’80s wild and woolly, featuring pulled whiskers, flying wedge, fancy kicking. Harvard Crimson.

President Adams. (1888, May 1). [No headline or byline] President Adams of Cornell University says… . New York Sun, p.4.

President McCosh. (1883, June 24). Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.2.

Princeton And Harvard. (1879, Nov. 16). New York Times, p.5.

Princeton Loses At Last. (1887, Nov. 13). New York Times, p.2.

Princeton Outplays. (1885, Oct. 15). Princeton outplays Stevens Institute. New York Sun, p.3.

Progress Of Football. (1890, Nov. 22). Washington Evening Star DC,  p.10.

Qualifications. (1843, Oct. 13). Qualifications of a Whig candidate. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.2.

Questions. (1887, Oct. 16). Questions by Sun correspondents. New York Sun, p.9.

’Rah For Georgetown. (1889, Nov. 29). Washington Post, p.7.

’Rah For Princeton. (1889, Nov. 29). Saint Paul Globe, p.1.

’Rah For Yale? (1887, Nov. 25). Brooklyn Eagle, p.2.

Rebellion At Rugby. (1871, April 30). Nashville Tennessean, p.3.

Rees, S.G. [LTE]. (1875, March 24). Football. London Times, p.12.

Reform Necessary. (1889, Oct. 11). Burlington Free Press VT, p.7.

Religious Gleanings. (1888, Feb. 23). Wilkes-Barre News, p.2.

Religious Work. (1889, Dec. 29). Religious work at Yale. New York Sun, p.8.

Result. (1886, Dec. 11). Result of a football game. New York Times, p.1.

Reunion. (1856, Sept. 26). Reunion of “Old Woodward.” Cincinnati Enquirer, p.1.

Rough And Tumble Play. (1879, Nov. 23). New York Times, p.5.

Rough Foot-Ball Playing. (1889, Nov. 15). Chicago Inter Ocean, p.2.

Rough Games. (1885, Dec. 23). Fort Wayne Daily Gazette IN, p.3.

Rough Sport. (1882, Jan. 22). San Francisco Chronicle, p.8.

Rugbeiensis [LTE]. (1870, Nov. 26). London Times, p.6.

Rugby Directory. (1882, Jan. 14). Rugby Rugbeian TN, p.2.

Rugby Foot Ball. (1881, Nov. 25). Wilkes-Barre Daily Union Leader PA, p.2.

Rugby Rules. (1883, Nov. 30). St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p.5.

Rules Governing. (1882, Dec. 3). Rules governing the inter-collegiate games. Boston Daily Globe, p.6.

Sanitary Science. (1883, Nov. 15). Detroit Free Press, pp.1,3.

Saturday Chat. (1883, Dec. 1). St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p.4.

Senator Vance. (1888, Oct. 19). Senator Vance and an overwhelming crowd yesterday. Raleigh News & Observer, p.4.

Several Surgeons. (1883, Nov. 7). Atlanta Constitution, p.4.

“Slugging” At Football. (1889, Nov. 8). New York Evening World, p.5.

Smith, R. A. (2011). Pay for play: A history of big-time college athletic reform. University of Illinois Press: Urbana, Chicago and Springfield.

Society Topics. (1889, Dec. 1). Society topics of the week. New York Times, p.12.

Some Sporting Gossip. (1889, Dec. 21). Pittsburgh Daily Post, p.6.

Splendid In-Door Games. (1889, Jan. 20). New York Sun, p.2.

Sporting. (1885, Nov. 29). Wilkes-Barre Sunday Leader, p.12.

Sporting. (1887, Dec. 31). Cincinnati Enquirer, p.10.

Sporting. (1888, Feb. 5). San Bernardino Daily Courier CA, p.8.

Sporting. (1888, Dec. 13). Pittsburgh Press, p.5.

Sporting Extra. (1889, Nov. 6). New York Evening World, p.1.

Sporting Matters. (1883, Nov. 22). Detroit Free Press, p.6.

Sporting News. (1874, April 10). Rutland Daily Globe VT, p.2.

Sporting News. (1878, Nov. 27). Cincinnati Enquirer, p.2.

Sporting News. (1879, May 16). Daily Milwaukee News, p.4.

Sporting Notes. (1884, March 5). Wilmington News Journal DE, p.4.

Sporting Notes. (1889, Sept. 7). Wilkes-Barre News, p.1.

Sporting Notes. (1889, Nov. 22). Chicago Inter Ocean, p.3.

Sport-Pastime Notes. (1886, Dec. 26). Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.6.

Sports And Pastimes. (1876, Nov. 20). Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.3.

Sports And Pastimes. (1882, Nov. 29). Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.2.

Sports And Pastimes. (1884, Dec. 7). Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.4.

Sports In 1878. (1879, Jan. 10). Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.3.

Sports In The Colleges. (1884, Sept. 5). New York Tribune, p.2.

Sportsman’s Stew. (1888, Jan. 22). Nashville Tennessean, p.9.

State Convention. (1889, March 23). Wilmington Morning Star NC, p.1.

State Intelligence. (1889, Nov. 28). Jackson County Banner IN, p.2.

State News. (1877, April 17). Hillsdale Standard MI, p.1.

State News. (1879, Oct. 10). Matton Gazette IL, p.1.

State Notes. (1882, May 24). Harrisburg Daily Independent PA, p.1.

St. Paul Boys Won. (1887, Nov. 8). Saint Paul Globe, p.4.

Stop That Ball! (1839, Dec. 9). Philadelphia Public Ledger, p.2.

Students Play Football. (1885, Oct. 11). New York Times, p.3.

Students’ Sports At Yale. (1886, Nov. 14). New York Times, p.3.

Suing For Big Estates. (1889, Aug. 17). Chicago Tribune, p.9.

Thanksgiving. (1889, Nov. 30). Wilmington Messenger NC, p.1.

Thanksgiving At Cornell. (1889, Dec. 2). New York Tribune, p.3.

Thanksgiving Day. (1889, Nov. 30). Newport Mercury RI, p.1.

Thanksgiving Kickers. (1889, Nov. 29). Detroit Free Press, p.8.

The Alumni At Their Dance. (1884, March 5). New York Times, p.1.

The Article. (1887, Oct. 19). [No headline or byline] The article on physical training… . Walnut Valley Times KS, p.3.

The Athletic Policy. (1885, June 10). The athletic policy of Dr. Sargent. Bangor Daily Whig and Courier ME, p.1.

The Battle Of The Ball. (1879, Nov. 9). New York Sun, p.6.

The Body And The Soul. (1881, Nov. 14). New York Times, p.8.

The Boys Of Town. (1881, June 3). [No headline or byline] The boys of town are getting up a game of foot ball… . Jamestown Weekly Alert ND, p.1.

The Budget. (1881, May 13). Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.4.

The Chicago Times. (1889, Nov. 13). [No headline or byline] The Chicago Times, speaking of the intercollegiate convention… . Anaconda Standard MT, p.2.

The City In Brief. (1888, Feb. 4). Los Angeles Times, p.8.

The College World. (1886, May 23). Philadelphia Times, p.11.

The Commonwealth. (1881, Nov. 12). Louisville Courier-Journal, p.11.

The Cumnock Nose Mask. (1890, Nov. 2). New York Times, p.2.

The Cutlers. (1887, Dec. 16). The Cutlers are the champions. New York Times, p.8.

The Dangers Of Foot-Ball. (1887, Oct. 27). Waterloo Press IA, p.2.

The Deadly Game. (1876, April 3). The deadly game of football. New York Sun, p.3.

The Difference. (1889, Dec. 8). Omaha Daily Bee NE, p.9.

The Draw Game. (1881, Nov. 26). Philadelphia Times, p.4.

The Eastern Papers. (1886, Dec. 4). [No headline or byline] The eastern papers are full of accounts… . Lawrence Daily Journal KS, p.4.

The Elevation. (1883, June 22). The elevation of muscle. New York Times, p.4.

The Event In Football. (1888, Nov. 18). Raleigh News & Observer, p.4.

The First Victim. (1886, Oct. 1). The first victim of the season. Lebanon Daily News PA, p.1.

The Foot Ball Season. (1880, Oct. 20). New York Sun, p.4.

The Foot-Ball Candidate. (1875, Jan. 23). Cincinnati Enquirer, p.2.

The Football Championship. (1882, Nov. 30). New York Tribune, p.2.

The Football Championship. (1887, Nov. 7). Indianapolis News, p.1.

The Football Match. (1888, Jan. 22). Atlanta Constitution, p.10.

The Football Season. (1882, Oct. 23). New York Tribune, p.2.

The Game By Bulletin. (1889, Nov. 16). New York Evening World, p.1.

The Gentle Game. (1884, Sept. 30). The gentle game of football. Philadelphia Inquirer, p.1.

The Great Rebellion. (1861, Oct. 17). New York Times, p.1.

The Hanover College. (1889, Nov. 18). [No headline or byline] The Hanover College foot ball team… . Columbus Republic IN, p.4.

The Harvard. (1884, Nov. 23). The Harvard badly beaten. New York Times, p.2.

The Harvard College Nine. (1885, April 24). New York Times, p.2.

The Harvard Football Teams. (1885, Dec. 16). New York Times, p.2.

The Harvard Men. (1883, Oct. 21). The Harvard men victorious. New York Times, p.7.

The Harvard Nine. (1885, Oct. 19). New York Times, p.5.

The National Game. (1885, April 24). Middlebury Register VT, p.3.

The Naval Cadet. (1889, Nov. 23). Baltimore Sun, p.9.

The New National Game. (1881, Nov. 23). Philadelphia Times, p.2.

The Old Game Of Football. (1878, March 4). London Belgravia, England, p.3.

The Pennsylvania Wins. (1888, Nov. 30). Philadelphia Inquirer, p.8.

The Perils Of Football. (1886, Oct. 25). Harrisburg Telegraph PA, p.2.

The Pic-Nic Party. (1858, May 20). Highland Weekly News OH, p.3.

The “Play.” (1889, Nov. 24). The “play” of the period. Detroit Free Press, p.4.

The Possibilities. (1889, Feb. 15). The possibilities of foot ball. Charlotte Observer, p.2.

The Rules. (1883, Nov. 23). The rules must be amended. New York Times, p.5.

The Rules Of Foot-Ball. (1881, Dec. 2). Cincinnati Enquirer, p.2.

The Season For Football. (1888, Nov. 11). New York Tribune, p.15.

The Seventh Annual. (1857, Dec. 1). New York Times, p.1.

The Seventh In The Rain. (1882, June 28). New York Tribune, p.5.

The Sporting Department. (1888, Feb. 22). New Orleans Times-Picayune, p.4.

The Surgeons Were Busy. (1887, Nov. 14). [No headline or byline] The surgeons were busy among the college football players… . New York Sun, p.4.

The Trinity. (1888, Dec. 7). Wilmington Messenger NC, p.4.

The University. (1878, Feb. 18). The university-practical instruction. Raleigh Observer NC, p.2.

The University. (1888, March 12). The university football association. Burlington Free Press VT, p.1.

The University Wins. (1889, Nov. 24). Philadelphia Times, p.3.

The ’Varsity Beaten. (1880, Nov. 8). Philadelphia Times, p.1.

The Y.M.C.A. (1889, Feb. 12). The Y.M.C.A. at Chapel Hill. Raleigh News & Observer, p.3.

The Yale. (1884, March 9). The Yale athletic meeting. New York Times, p.1.

The Yale-Princeton Game. (1886, Nov. 27). New York Sun, p.3.

To Make. (1882, May 5). To make football more interesting. New York Sun, p.3.

To Prohibit Football. (1884, Nov. 6). Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.4.

To Support. (1888, Oct. 4). To support football at Dartmouth. New York Tribune, p.1.

Too Much Football. (1884, Nov. 26). Columbus Republic IN, p.2.

Training For Head Or Feet? (1889, Dec. 12). St. Johnsbury Caledonian VT, p.2.

Trial. (1846, March 28). Trial of Charles E. Goodwin, for an assault with intent to kill concluded Howard District Court. Baltimore Sun, p.1.

Trial Of Spreckels. (1885, June 4). San Francisco Chronicle, p.5.

Trinity Wins. (1888, Dec. 1). Raleigh News & Observer, p.1.

Triumphed O’er The Blue. (1889, Nov. 29). Chicago Inter Ocean, pp.1-2.

Trying. (1884, Oct. 5). Trying Princeton’s football team. New York Times, p.1.

Tyng, A.J. (1888, March 26). Base ball prospect. Fort Worth Daily Gazette TX, p.5.

Universities Win. (1888, Feb. 19). San Francisco Chronicle, p.11.

University. (1888, Nov. 5). University of Pennsylvania and Yale. Philadelphia Inquirer, p.3.

University Doings. (1887, Nov. 13). Philadelphia Times, p.11.

University Items. (1877, Sept. 26). Oakland Tribune, p.3.

University Items. (1883, Jan. 26). Oakland Tribune, p.2.

University Notes. (1882, Sept. 24). Lawrence Daily Journal KS, p.1.

University Notes. (1886, March 9). San Francisco Chronicle, p.5.

University Notes. (1886, March 16). San Francisco Chronicle, p.7.

University Notes. (1886, Dec. 9). Austin Weekly TX, p.7.

University Notes. (1889, Jan. 28). Salem Daily Capital Journal OR, p.4.

University Notes. (1889, Dec. 8). Saint Paul Globe, p.12.

University Topics. (1886, Nov. 4). Atlanta Constitution, p.2.

Various Topics. (1879, Nov. 2). Detroit Free Press, p.5.

Very Rough. (1888, Nov. 30). New York Sun, p.3.

Views Of Harvard. (1888, April 30). Views of Harvard athletics. New York Sun, p.3.

Wagenhurst, E.V. (1889, Nov. 10). The Foot-Ball Result. Philadelphia Times, p.16.

Walter Camp’s Opinion. (1889, Nov. 16). Walter Camp’s opinion of the football trouble. New York Sun, p.4.

Washburn College Budget. (1881, Dec. 10). Topeka Daily Commonwealth KS, p.1.

Washburn College Notes. (1886, Feb. 6). Topeka Daily Capital KS, p.5.

Water Proof. (1845, April 11). [Advertisement] Water proof India rubber balls, Goodyear’s patent gum elastic. New York Tribune, p.4.

Wesleyan Comes Last. (1888, Nov. 30). New York Tribune, p.8

Wesleyan In The Rear. (1888, Nov. 30). New York Times, p.8.

Wesleyan University. (1889, Nov. 7). New York Times, p.20.

Weyand, A.M. (1926). American football: Its history and development. D. Appleton and Company: New York.

What We Are All Talking. (1889, Dec. 1). What we are all talking about. New York Sun, p.6.

Wills, W.H. [LTE]. (1881, Nov. 24). The noble game of foot-ball. New York Times, p.3.

With Saturday’s Meeting. (1889, Nov. 21). [No headline or byline] With Saturday’s meeting of the Princeton and Harvard elevens… . New York Times, p.4.

With The Colleges. (1889, Oct. 20). Philadelphia Times, p.16.

With The Collegians. (1889, Nov. 10). Philadelphia Times, p.7.

Woodbridge Grove. (1874, Aug. 13). Detroit Free Press, p.1.

Woodward, J. (1996). Taylor, Charles Elisha. In Powell, W.S. [Ed.]. Dictionary of North Carolina biography. University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill.

Work At West Point. (1879, Nov. 7). Burlington Free Press VT, p.1.

Yale Again Victorious. (1883, Nov. 30). New York Times, p.8.

Yale Again Victorious. (1888, Nov. 25). New York Sun, p.13.

Yale Against Harvard. (1886, Nov. 20). New York Times, p.1.

Yale And Harvard. (1881, May 27). New York Times, p.4.

Yale And Wesleyan. (1882, Oct. 8). Yale and Wesleyan at football. New York Tribune, p.2.

Yale Beats Harvard. (1886, Nov. 21). Yale beats Harvard at football. New York Sun, p.1.

Yale College Gossip. (1881, Oct. 12). Chicago Tribune, p.3.

Yale Defeats Harvard. (1881, Nov. 13) New York Tribune, p.2.

Yale Defeats Columbia. (1882, Nov. 19). New York Times, p.2.

Yale Foot Ball Game. (1852, Oct. 18). New York Times, p.2.

Yale Outplays Harvard. (1887, Nov. 25). New York Times, p.1.

Yale Overtops Them All. (1889, Dec. 10). New York Sun, p.5.

Yale Vs. Harvard. (1890, Nov. 8). Pittsburgh Daily Post, p.6

Yale Vs. Rutgers. (1887, Nov. 6). New York Sun, p.11

Yale Whitewashes. (1888, Nov. 4). Yale whitewashes the University of Pennsylvania team. New York Tribune, p.5.

Yale Wins. (1887, Nov. 24). New York Evening World, p.1.

Yale Wins. (1887, Nov. 25). Yale wins a glorious day. New York Sun, p.1.

Yale’s Athletic Team. (1884, Sept. 6). New York Times, p.1.

Yale’s Easy. (1880, Nov. 18). Yale’s easy victory at foot-ball. New York Times, p.5.

Yale’s Kickers This Year. (1887, Oct. 27). New York Sun, p.5.

Yale’s New Athletic Grounds. (1884, Sept. 25). New York Times, p.1.

Yesterday’s Foot Ball. (1889, Nov. 29). Omaha Daily Bee NE, p.2.

Young Arthur. (1884, Oct. 12). [No headline or byline] Young Arthur, the president’s son… . Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.4.

Young Chicago. (1888, Oct. 27. Young Chicago vs. Old England. Chicago Tribune, p.8.

Young Men. (1888, Dec. 28). Young men of muscle. Baltimore Sun, p.4.

Copyright ©2016 for historical arrangement by Matthew L. Chaney

Matt Chaney is a writer, researcher and consultant on public issues in sport, specializing in American football for three decades. Chaney, an MA in media studies, is a former college football player and coach whose books include Spiral of Denial: Muscle Doping in American Footballfrom his Four Walls Publishing in 2009Chaney’s study for graduate thesis, co-published with the University of Central Missouri in 2001, analyzed print sport-media coverage of anabolic substances in football from 1983-1999. Email mattchaney@fourwallspublishing.com or visit the website for more information.

Youth Football Lineage and Debate: Pre-1900 News Line

Opposition to schoolboy football rears in the 1890s, Victorian Era America, as the college game faces abolition threat

By Matt Chaney

Posted Saturday, August 13, 2016, ChaneysBlog.com

Copyright ©2016 for historical arrangement by Matthew L. Chaney

1862  Nov 13  “Camp Lyon [Va., Union Army,] presents quite a winter-like aspect this morning, and the season is being speedily introduced by a severe snow storm. It looks gloomily enough about the camp, and every body is glad to keep indoors, and hug the stove as lovingly as he would a fair friend at home. Nothing of very great importance has transpired in the regiment since I wrote you last… on Saturday afternoon we have  game of amusement for exercise in the stead of a battalion drill, in the shape of a foot ball match [English soccer], which is considered a very favorable substitute. To be sure, barked shins are quite numerous, but notwithstanding, all seem to join in the fun and enjoy it amazingly”—“CHAS.,” infantryman correspondent, Pittsfield Berkshire County Eagle MA

1872  Oct 20  “With the same blood running in his veins, the healthy American ought to be the peer of the athletic Englishman. … Surely Young America will not quietly sit down and excuse itself for its shortcomings to the athletic world on the ground that our climate is deteriorating to the Anglo-Saxon race as physical beings! … The finest thing for the young men of this country would be the establishment of thousands of athletic clubs before next Summer. Till we have them we must be content to be… physically inferior race to our cousins on the other side of the water”—New York Times

1873  July 3  “FOOT-BALL, according to the newspapers, is becoming a popular game all over the country. Boston girls claim to be the most skillful.”—Pulaski Citizen TN

1876  autumn  Incoming college freshmen Walter Camp and Theodore Roosevelt arrive at Yale and Harvard, respectively, destined to become key opinion leaders on tackle football for boys and men in America. Camp plays football for Yale, but young Roosevelt avoids the rough game to become fervent fan instead, donning a Harvard jersey he secures from a varsity player

1876  Nov 22  “Princeton College in a circular to Harvard, Yale, and Columbia, asks them to send delegates to Springfield, on the 22d, to form an International Foot-ball Association”—newspapers report

1878  Oct 14  “At Lake City a son of Dr. Adams, aged 10 years, had one of his legs broken above the knee by the accidental kick of a boy, while playing foot-ball”—Saint Paul Globe MN

1880  March 20  “They are playing football down at Medicine Lodge. The Cresset says: ‘Legal fraternity, physicians, druggists, merchants and cowboys may be seen at almost any time swinging their lily white hoofs in frantic attempts to kick the seductive football’”—Kinsley Valley Republican KS

1882  Athlete-managed “football associations” at four eastern universities—Yale, Harvard, Princeton and Columbia—establish the Intercollegiate Football Association [IFA]. The evolving tackle sport is now based on English rugby, but American rules set a line of scrimmage between opposing teams, ball possession for one side at a time, and loss of possession for failure to advance five yards in three downs. Consequently, linemen and backs form “interference” or blocking schemes to lead ball-carriers, disallowed in rugby, and ramming becomes prevalent in American football. Injurious collisions are reported routinely by newspapers, especially of the “rush line”

1882  Nov 12  “A fine game of foot-ball was played Saturday afternoon between the [Washington] High School and Columbia College teams, which resulted in a tie, each securing one goal. The goals were kicked by English for the High School, and Davidson of the Columbias. A High School player had his knee sprained by being jumped into by one of the Columbias”—Washington Sunday Herald DC

1883  Nov 15  Schools should offer physical training and athletics, a doctor recommends at convention for the American Public Health Association convention. “Exercise is necessary to health. [Dr. Charles Lundy] spoke of the debilitated appearance of school children, and remarked that if we wished to preserve the highest type of manhood and womanhood in this country, we must devote more time to exercise and less to book knowledge. He favored the appointment of a physical trainer… Throughout the schooling period, physical sports and games, such as running, jumping, hare-and-hounds, base ball, foot ball, cricket, lawn tennis, lacrosse and boating, under proper guidance and restrictions, are admirable, and should be encouraged”—Detroit Free Press

1883  Nov 23  IFA rules ban “butting,” officially defined as striking a man with the shoulder or head, along with “hacking, throttling, tripping up, tackling below the hips or striking with closed fists”—New York Tribune

1883  Nov 24  Anti-butting policy helps “safeguard” American football, the forward-colliding sport “established as firmly as baseball at many colleges”—New York Times

1884  Oct 7  “Dr. Dudley A. Sargent, director of the gymnasium at Harvard, says that greater attention than ever will be given to athletics at the college the coming year. The report that the faculty will forbid football, he says, is without foundation. ‘The fact is,’ he says, ‘the members of the faculty are just as much interested in Harvard’s success in athletics as the students are themselves… the Harvard faculty simply tried to take some action that would make the football association change their objectionable rules. The rules for 1884, just issued, disqualify a player for a single foul, and the result is accomplished.’ Dr. Sargent says that the physical examinations of college athletes will be much more thorough and strict this year. He says: ‘Last year there were men in the crew, in the base ball nine, and in the football team, who had no business there. They didn’t keep the rules of training, and were not manly enough to let the people know about it until it was too late. I shall see that nothing of that sort happens again. Heretofore I have examined the athletes two or three months before the various contests came off. Hereafter I shall examine them at short intervals up to the day of the games and races. If they are not in good condition they cannot take part in the contests’ “—Wilmington Morning News DE

1884  Nov 26  “W.B. Phillips, one of the most popular Harvard students and leader in college athletics, is lying at the point of death from injuries received in playing football. The committee on athletics have announced their intention to ask the faculty to prohibit football after this season”—newspapers report

1885  March 6  “An interesting game of foot ball was played yesterday between fifteen boys of the Macon school, and fifteen of the graded school. The score made was 4 for Macon school and 3 for the graded school. The game lasted three hours”—Charlotte Observer

1885  Nov 2  “Yesterday afternoon on the Lehigh University Athletic grounds the Lehigh and Lafayette elevens played a match game of football. Lehigh forced the ball near the Lafayette goal and by good playing kept it there for forty minutes, when Pierce, Lehigh’s centre, [butted] into Davidson, Lafayette’s half back. Referee W.C. Posey, of the University of Pennsylvania, ordered Pierce off the field. Lehigh claimed that this was an unjust decision, as the collision of Pierce and Davidson was purely accidental. The Lehigh faculty ordered the men off the field, whereupon the referee, as compelled by the rules, gave the game to Lafayette”—Wilkes-Barre Times PA

1885  Nov 15  “But few of the objectionable characteristics of modern college foot ball have as yet been eliminated from the game. … The fact is, the American college game of foot ball is not foot ball [soccer] at all, but simply a game in which a foot ball is used as the medium for a series of wrestling encounters in which mere weight of muscle turns the scale in awarding victory or defeat, and skillful strategic play finds but a limited field for exercise. As to the danger of the sport the recent death of a Yale student in New York, which was caused by an injury sustained in a foot ball match last week, is but one incident in the chapter of accidents arising from the dangerous roughness of the game as played under the existing rules of allowing the ball to be handled”—Brooklyn Daily Eagle

1886  Oct 11  “The Yale men are hardening themselves by butting their heads against trees and fences, while Harvard’s forces prefer dropping iron anvils upon their toes. Altogether the football outlook is most promising and the ambulance driver will soon have lots of work”—New York Morning Journal

1886  Nov 25  “A chilling rain fell during the afternoon, but the people, armed with umbrellas and horse blankets, never minded the [Thanksgiving] elements. Hodge [of Princeton] and Wallace [of Yale] indulged in a slugging match in which blows were exchanged, and even butting with the heads was resorted to”—New York Sun

1886  Dec 5  “Town of Princeton, the center of what is supposed to be college refinement and the best educational influences of New Jersey, was the scene of the display of low, vulgar brutality and rowdyism which marked the occasion of the match between the fighting and wrestling teams of Yale and Princeton. … This is nice kind of work for college students claiming to be gentlemen. It is simply vulgar wrestling encounters, with slugging thrown in. The sooner the college clubs drop their game and substitute regular foot ball under the English Association [soccer] rules the better. Such a scene as that at Princeton on Thanksgiving is a disgrace to both Yale and Princeton”—Brooklyn Daily Eagle

1887  March 27  “The Inter-Collegiate Foot-ball Association met at the Fifth Avenue Hotel to-day [in Manhattan]… A general opinion was expressed that some means would be adopted to stop the extreme roughness of the game as played on some fields, but the only thing done in this direction was to pass a resolution expressing the sense of the convention that referees should more strictly enforce the rules in future than in the past and pledging the captains of the teams to use their strongest personal influence to prevent their men holding in the rush line, slugging and all other objectionable features of the game. The convention will meet again in May”—Philadelphia Times

1887  Oct 10  “Outbursts of temper in play cannot be guarded against, for slight ‘spats’ often occur in practice games. In a regular game there are twenty-two players nearly all of whom are at work all the time, and on the rush lines where fourteen big fellows are constantly blocking each other’s movements, it is not to be wondered at that hot-headed men in their great anxiety to do all within their power to win the game, occasionally lose their heads and try to ‘put a head’ on the fellows opposite. The [newly sanctioned] second referee has long been needed and will undoubtedly improve the game”—New York Tribune

1887  Oct 10  Despite anti-butting and further rules, football’s necessary collisions include head-ramming reported in virtually every newspaper’s play-by-play accounts. IFA leaders, pressured by faculty and advisory committees, convene to address “brutal playing that has unfortunately marred the sport in the last five or six years” and promise “practicable and sensible measures”—newspapers report

1887  Nov 20  “Yale beat Princeton to-day at foot ball on the Polo grounds by 12 points to 0… As it was, over 5,000 persons were present, and the foot ball enthusiasts and experts were unanimous, and justly so, in the opinion that the game on the whole was the sharpest, best-tempered, and most reputably played between the two colleges since the present championship series began. The Yale team work was a model of snap and vigor. The rush line stood up like a stone wall, and the Princeton players tired themselves out butting blindly against it”—Chicago Inter Ocean

1887  Nov 25  “A large crowd went to the [New York City] Polo grounds this morning to witness the foot ball match between the University of Pennsylvania and Wesleyan college teams. These colleges were tied for last place in the college tournament. It was a very rough game, and slugging was freely indulged in. In some cases actual knock-downs occurred. Referee Walter Camp, of Yale, and Umpire Richard Hodge, of Princeton, tried in vain to keep the game within proper limits”—newspapers report

1887  Nov 26  “The Emerson Institute team defeated the second eleven of the [Washington] High School yesterday by a score of 8 to 0”—Washington Evening Star DC

1888  spring  “Interference” or blocking is finally sanctioned under IFA rules, along with “low tackling” above the knees. Tacklers now duck legally for thighs of a ball-carrier, aiming to strike “eyes open” with head up and held aside—per coaches’ specific instruction—and absorb impact with shoulder and chest. Football coaches discuss new head-up theory in newspaper accounts complete with artist illustrations of “proper” tackling. Some coaches, widely known as “football experts,” write for the popular press of newspapers and magazines

1888  circa  “The history of college football in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is a chronicle of rules constantly evolving in large part to outlaw tactics the old rules had inadvertently permitted”—Michael Oriard, Oregon State University, author and former NFL player, in his Reading Football: How The Popular Press Created an American Spectacle [1994]

1888  April 25  “The Bush murder trial is nearing its end. The prisoner sat behind his attorneys quiet, pale, and holding his hands to his face. … Dr. S.V. Clevenger said that he had given the prisoner much thought since the trial began, and had come to the conclusion that he was suffering from traumatic insanity—produced by wounds. The doctor also believed that the prisoner had inherited his affliction. Traumatic insanity also disclosed itself in suicidal and homicidal tendencies. … He concluded by saying that in his opinion the prisoner was not responsible for the murder of his wife”—Chicago Daily Tribune

1888  Nov 18  “One of the prettiest foot ball games ever played in this vicinity was that at Princeton today between that college and Harvard, which the Jersey men won by a score of 18 to 6. …  Harvard was surprised to find that her rush line, strong as it was, could not make an impression upon Princeton’s line of giants. … The powerful Tigers sprang at Harvard’s rush line, and beat it out of shape. Cowan, Cook, Irvine, and George began to butt away at the Harvard rushers like human pile-drivers… Mr. Camp’s work as referee was excellent”—newspapers report

1888  Nov 30  IFA referee, rule-maker and coach Walter Camp is ridiculed for lax penalty enforcement in the violent game between Penn and Wesleyan on Thanksgiving, when numerous players suffered head wounds and/or brain trauma, among injuries: “both teams endeavored to find out which possessed the most force as battering rams, and they were ramming away most cheerfully when time was called, at 4:45, just as it was growing too dark to see”—New York Times

1888  Nov 30  “Unfortunately there was considerable unfair playing and ‘slugging’ [between Penn and Wesleyan]. It is hard to say which side began it. Only one man was disqualified when there should have been half a dozen”—New York Tribune

1888  Dec 1  Referee Camp, of Yale, under fire for the Penn-Wesleyan game, blames players for failing to “tackle properly”… “The tackling, as Walter Camp says, was generally disadvantageous to the runner and often ‘laid him up’ ”—newspapers report

1889  March 11  “It was a current rumor that a bill would be introduced to prohibit football playing in North Carolina! Of all absurd things… It was said last night that [legislator] Mr. Walser proposed to introduce the bill, but had concluded not to do so. What a storm of ridicule that passage of such a bill, or its mere introduction, would have aroused”—Durham Tobacco Plant NC

1889  March 21  “The Boston Globe publishes the following amendments to the rules governing intercollegiate foot-ball… Rule 27. A player will be disqualified for hacking, striking with closed fist, or unnecessary roughness. For intentional tackling below the knees, butting, tripping and throttling, the other side gets twenty-five yards or free kick”—newspapers report

1890  September  “Of all college sports foot-ball has proved most attractive to the spectators. It has suffered more rebuffs at the hands of the press than any other game, but these rebuffs were attributable to ignorance of the rules and customs, and as the sport became better known the adverse criticism decreased until it has now almost disappeared… No game has shown such a remarkable vitality in the face of all opposition. It has steadily increased the number of its supporters, and it has no deserters. Every convert becomes an eager advocate of its merits, and although it is only fifteen years old in America, nearly every school and college has a team.”—Walter Camp, the multi-entrepreneur as Yale football director, IFA rule-maker and field referee, football consultant and children’s author, sportswriter and medical technician, in his Foot-Ball Rules and Referee’s Book annual published by A.G. Spalding & Bros. equipment company

1890  September  Walter Camp omits the term “butting” from his football rulebook, as he has for editions since 1888, published by his business associates at A.G. Spalding & Bros. With various rule printings in circulation, confusion and lax enforcement will continue regarding field colliding, especially for striking with or at the head

1890  Nov 6  “Is it not possible to play the game without the exercise of quite so much muscle? If not, it is time for some kind philanthropist to step to the front with a contrivance for the protection of the players. How would a tin suit do?”—Brooklyn Daily Eagle

1890  Nov 16  “Harvard has not yet learned to ‘tackle low,’ but it is a proverb at Princeton ‘never to tackle a Yale man low’ “—New York Tribune

1891  Sept 24  “A fifteen-year-old… in Talbot County, Ga., whose favorite sport was butting heads with other boys, has been sent to the lunatic asylum. It is thought his insanity was caused by the concussion of the brain received in his contests”—Salina Daily Republican KS

1891  Oct 13  “The Cook County High-School League met at the Grand Pacific yesterday afternoon. It is composed of these schools: Evanston Township, Englewood High, Manual, Hyde Park High, and Lake View High”—Chicago Daily Tribune

1891  Nov 27  “Ten thousand shivering enthusiasts saw the Chicago university club eleven beat Cornell today [Thanksgiving], by 12 to 4. It was a great game, won by Chicago’s splendid work. Cornell was a strong team, but not so good individually. Her best player, Galbraith, was hit in the face by Alvord [of Chicago] and compelled to quit early in the last half, hopelessly weakening the rush line. Two Chicago men were ruled off for foul tackles, and altogether the team distinguished itself by disregard of the rules. Scarcely a member of the New York team escaped injury of some sort, and nearly every one of them closed the day with blood on his face”—Los Angeles Herald

1891 Nov 29  “To tackle a man by the head or neck is not in any way foul, and an umpire should always ask himself the question when a foul tackle of this nature is claimed, ‘Did the tackler shut off the man’s wind?’—for a man who is being throttled cannot breathe”—Walter Camp, writing for newspapers

1892  March 6  “Cracked skulls, broken fingers, shattered teeth, dislocated ankles and bleeding noses were the only things in order at Central Park yesterday. The announcement that football teams of the Berkeley and Oakland High schools would play in the morning and the teams of the Berkeley Gymnasium and the San Francisco High School in the afternoon did not tend to draw much of a crowd. … The [Berkeley-Oakland High] game was very tame, the players showing that they knew very little of the rules governing the different points. They seemed to take special delight in butting into one another, and the player who could spill the most blood was considered the best player”—San Francisco Chronicle

1892  Oct 30  “The star of the Pennsylvania team is one [Arthur] Knipe. A homely genius is Knipe. He is one of those stocky sons of toil with a foundation under him that would make the Chicago Post office a useful edifice. His head is his distinguishing member, however. It is inordinately large to start with and is covered with a growth of bushy hair… when he starts down the field and gives the wind a chance at it he is a sight once seen not soon to be forgotten. When he ducks that huge top piece of his and starts at the anatomy of the rush line he generally relieves the man he hits of whatever surplus wind he has in his lungs. Long hair is the fad here and that on the heads of the Pennsylvania team, if shorn, would fill a mattress… The ball would be handed [Knipe] and that huge bunch of moss on the top of his head would go butting through the line for rapid gains. Finally, with the ball at the ten-yard line, he went through left tackle and end for a touchdown, and Thayer kicked goal”—Chicago Daily Tribune

1892  Nov 14  “Garfield university’s eleven won a game of foot ball Saturday afternoon from Lewis academy by a score of 34 to 0. The game was closely contested at times but the superiority of the Garfield eleven is team work and weight was noticeable. The [prep] academy players complain bitterly of the treatment they received, declaring that foul plays characterized the university’s game and were overlooked [by] the too lenient referee and umpire. The boys say they got very much the worst of it in all the decisions. They claim to have suffered a great deal from foul tackles”—Wichita Beacon KS

1892  Dec 19  “Ten or fifteen thousand people went to the [Cal-Berkeley] football game on Saturday and appeared to enjoy it hugely. It was a new sensation, for there is rather more excitement in football than in baseball. … The team which can make the strongest rush generally wins, on the Napoleonic principle that fortune is on the side of the heaviest battalions. … For the idea of the modern football captain is to fling such a force upon the holder of the ball that he shall be knocked down, and probably knocked senseless, then to carry off the ball without meeting with the like experience from the opposite captain”—San Francisco Call

1893  Jan 27  “John. L. Herget, better known as ‘Young Mitchell,’ the famous San Francisco boxer, was a spectator in the [California] Senate yesterday. He is doing some quiet lobbying against the bill which proposes to prohibit glove contests and other sports that are liable to produce bodily injury. … The bill, he says, will prohibit football and other similar games, if it becomes law”—Sacramento Record-Union CA

1893  Oct 22  During the coming week [Cal-Berkeley] Coach Heffelfinger will strive to remedy the great defect of the team at present—high tackling. Work on the tackling-bag will be in order. This bag is a plush-covered arrangement, with soft interior, and is about the height of a man. Suspended by rope and pulley in the gymnasium it will be put into motion and the men be practices in diving at it on the fly as it were”—San Francisco Call

1893  Nov 8  “One week from Saturday the Kansas State University and the University of Nebraska teams will butt heads at Lincoln”—Topeka Daily Capital KS

1893  Nov 27  A Brooklyn football referee for schools and colleges writes that “boys usually claim a foul tackle if a player is caught about the neck. No umpire in this section was ever known to give twenty-five yards penalty under the rule, which probably forbids only choking direct by grasping a player’s throat with the hand. An arm thrown around the neck from in front or one side produces no throttling [call] that should be forbidden. Who ever heard of a player being disqualified for ‘unnecessary roughness?’ The line between disabling a player and killing him is only a line in width, and has been too often passed. Here the fault lies with the umpires, not the rules”—New York Sun

1893  Dec 1  “There is a great deal of interest in army and navy circles [of Washington] over the coming football contest between the cadets of West Point and those of Annapolis tomorrow. Anxious mothers, sisters, sweethearts and some fathers have sent letters to both Secretary of War Lamont and Secretary of the Navy  Herbert beseeching them to prevent the game”—Allentown Leader PA

1893  Dec 3  “The boys at the [St. Paul] Central high school are in mourning, and it is all on account of the attitude of Prof. J.N. Greer, the principal, who opposes football playing on the ground that it is attended with too much brutality. In speaking of the subject yesterday he said: ‘I am thoroughly disgusted with football as it is at present played. The game resembles a prize fight in which there are eleven men on a side instead of two as in the genuine fight. It is every year growing worse, and the people of the city can rest assured that next year I will use every effort within my power to prevent the organization of a team among the Central high school boys, if the game continues to grow in roughness.’ … It is probable that the subject will receive an airing before long at the hands of the board of education”—Saint Paul Globe MN

1893  Dec 3  “The [Pittsburgh] police authorities have declared against football playing under the present rules, and say tonight that in future no such degrading and brutal exhibitions as has been witnessed on the football field during the past season would be permitted in this city. They say further that they have information that the authorities in other cities will take similar action”—Chicago Inter Ocean

1893  Dec 10  “I think there should be two umpires instead of one—one at each end of the line. This is from personal experience. With this addition of officials there would be no possible excuse for questionable work. Foul tackling is universally allowed at present. I have not seen a foul tackle given against a team this year”—W.D. Osgood, University of Pennsylvania player, in New York World

1893  Dec 19  “Football, as at present played, is at least fifteen years old, and it is only within the past three months that we have had all this fuss about the danger of the game. Doubtless boys have been hurt at it from the day it was first played, as they are liable to get hurt at almost any game in which they engage—unless it be croquet, as we have suggested recently. … This question of football is a matter of family government rather than the public’s business. If the parents are willing for the son to play football and take chances, it is none of the public’s affair. After the player passes 21 years, it is nobody’s but his own”—Charlotte Observer

1894  Jan 3  “L.F. Deland of Boston, who is an expert counselor to businessmen, was the inventor of the ‘flying wedge’ in football, which has caused so much havoc among college teams. Mr. Deland never played a game of football in his life”—newspapers report

1894  Jan 6  “The game of football at the city school Monday drew a big crowd. The game was quite interesting to those who understood it, but for the outsider he could size it up as a ‘butting game’ “—San Bernardino Weekly Courier CA

1894  Jan 30  “The football reform movement at last begins to assume a tangible shape. … The University Athletic Club has decided at the request of Yale and Princeton, the remnants of the Intercollegiate Football Association, to shoulder the take of preparing the new rules, or rather taking steps to see that they are prepared. In order that this may be done the plan which has frequently been outlined will in all probability be adopted, and that is to appoint a committee of five football experts, who will gather in opinions and suggestions of other experts, and from these select the best from which to draw up the new rules”—New York Evening World

1894  February  U.S. President Grover Cleveland calls a White House summit on football, joined by his cabinet members to hear player injuries and more issues involving the teams at the Naval Academy and West Point. “[Navy] Surgeon Harvey made the report, and it showed that twenty-seven [Annapolis] men playing football received thirty-seven injuries; while 198 men exercising in the riding hall received twenty-six injuries in the same period—three months. The 101 men exercising in the gymnasium in the same period received ten injuries. The time lost by students on account of injuries was divided in this way: Through football, 106 days; through riding, seventy-one days; through gymnasium work, fifty-eight days. … Gen. John Schofield said football ‘requires some essential modifications. The required modification will be difficult to enforce,’ he continued, ‘for the reason that the objectionable features are those which contribute most to success in a contested game. They are those features which are most dangerous to life and limb, and may be said to most resemble military operations. They are more or less objectionable on that account. While it is undoubtedly true that experience in actual war is the best possible military training, modern civilization does not permit the making of war simply for the purpose of training an army’ ”—Salt Lake Tribune [1897 Nov 28]

1894  Feb 2  “There is some consternation among lacrosse and football players [in Canada] from the fact the insurance companies are disposed to refuse applicants who have been injured at any time in their athletic career by a blow on the head”—Manitoba Morning Free Press

1894  Feb 21  “Professor [Woodrow] Wilson [of Princeton] made the familiar plea that [football] developed moral qualities… We think the defenders of the game as now played would do well to omit the ‘moral qualities’ argument. It is really a little too much”—New York Evening Post

1894  Feb 27  “[War and Navy] Secretaries Lamont and Herbert have decided that there shall be no contests at football between cadets of Annapolis and West Point. This action is taken because of a conviction that the inter-academic matches are a detriment to discipline and to the studies of the cadets”—Columbus Republic IN

1894  March 26  “A surgeon visited [West Point Military Academy] several weeks ago for the purpose of gathering statistics to show that football, as it is now played, is a dangerous sport. In his statement, published in a medical magazine, he gives the percentage of accidents due to football as being twenty-six times as great as in riding, and fifty times as great as in gymnasium exercises. He concludes by saying that, in his opinion, football is a needlessly dangerous sport. It is evident that the doctor does not understand… [the injuries] amounted to nothing more than a slight inconvenience. The statistics as published do not give a correct idea of the casualties from football play at West Point”—New York Times

1894  May 8  “Walter Camp has finished his investigation into the dangers of football. He has sent over 1,200 letters to players all over the country, including principals of preparatory schools and physical directors of universities, and has received in answer replies from over 1,100 persons. In nearly every case the answer made is that the game is not considered brutal, although it is admitted to be rough. Principals of fitting schools place themselves on record as stating that with the proposed changes the game will be an ideal form of American sport. The statistics received establish the fact that only a small proportion of players received permanent injuries, and that in an overwhelming number of cases the hurts were simple bruises or sprains. Most of the sprains were not obtained from contact with players, but were owing to uneven ground”—New York Tribune

1894  May 30  “The foot ball rules have been revised and the game is now deemed much safer. However, people who are on the lookout for new drawing room amusements for the children need not expect to adopt foot ball just yet unless the furniture is insured”—Fort Scott Daily Monitor KS

1894  Oct 13  “Principal Frederick Partington of the Staten Island Academy sent a circular letter on Monday last to the parents of the male students denouncing football as a brutal, rough sport, and asking the parents to do all their power to arrest the growth of interest in the game among their sons. Principal Partington declines to assume any responsibility for the students who engage in the games. The letter caused no end of talk among the parents, students, trustees, and stockholders of the school. Those who have expressed their views are against any interference with the sport. Principal Partington, it is said, is a very good instructor, but he knows nothing of the merits, or demerits, of football. … One of the students on the team said to a reporter yesterday that no attention had been paid to Principal Partington’s letter, and that none of the parents of the members of the eleven had shown any signs of complying with the principal’s request”—New York Sun

1894  Dec 3  “The whole matter is one of business, not confined to universities, but more strikingly illustrated in the preparatory schools. It is notorious that the schools excelling in athletics, especially football, attract the largest number of scholars. Hence an encouragement of the games by the teachers. I could cite many instances. Only last week one of the masters of a leading Boston classical school rebuked a strong boy for not playing football, although he was out of condition and had been forbidden by his father to enter the game. Lessons are subordinate to athletics, and examinations are made easy for him who upholds the prowess of the baseball nine or the football team”—William Lloyd Garrison, Jr., social reformer, in letter to the editor, New York Evening News

1894  Dec 7  “In sentencing two youths to pay a small fine for engaging in a fight at a football game, [Washington municipal] Judge Miller took occasion yesterday to make some spicy comments on that knock-down-and-drag-out sport. ‘There seems to be a spirit of fight manifested throughout these contests,’ he said. ‘People get hurt and killed and much malice is shown. Everything seems to be done by force. If the games are to be conducted in the future as in the past then players should go out into the woods [like illicit pugilists]’”—Washington Times DC

1894  Dec 9  “To all the State Legislatures: Pass laws prohibiting football, or repeal the existing laws prohibiting prize-fighting”—St. Louis Globe-Democrat

1894  Dec 13  “The captivating game of [American] football has recently received such a severe blow in the east that there is danger of its doom being speedily sealed. The press in the eastern States is making a heavy drive at it—especially intercollegiate football. The change of rules since last year, abolishing ‘the flying wedge’ and other forms of mass play subject to abuse, was expected to result in less rough playing and fewer casualties this season. The expectation has not been realized. … And the game is seriously threatened. For it is impossible to ascribe the violence of the contest to any special kind of tactics. Last year the flying wedge and momentum plays were made the scapegoat for all the accidents of football. The public were easily deceived in that matter, even those who were the bitterest critics of the game, and when the playing rules were revised last winter, with momentum plays prohibited, the critics at once claimed a great victory for milder football. Such was the irony of fate that the most violent contest seen in years [Yale-Harvard Thanksgiving game] was played under those revised rules, and, moreover, with the chairman of the revision committee [Walter Camp] as umpire. Another journal referring to the same game says, it was undoubtedly the worst exhibition of recklessness and brutality that has been publicly made since the days of the Roman gladiators”—Winnipeg Tribune of Canada

1894  Dec 17  “Is football essential to manly sports? Certainly not for physical culture; for our gymnasiums and athletic clubs afford every facility. We have baseball, cricket, and polo; bicycling, boating, and swimming, running, fishing, and hunting; all of these offer delightful recreation… It is a lack of real moral manliness on the part of the governing powers. There is a mania and rivalry for large numbers on the college rolls which makes presidents timid and under a compromising policy. It is a betrayal of a holy trust”—Rev. J.J. Tobias, Episcopalian, in Chicago Daily Tribune

1894  Dec 18  “I think President Eliot’s attitude in some respects a very unfortunate one for the College [Harvard]. His opposition to Athletics and his efforts to Germanize the methods of teaching work real harm. The main product we want to turn out of our colleges is men. Incidentally let them be professors, chemists, writers, anything you please, but let them be men first of all, and they can’t be turned out if we don’t have the instructors themselves men, and not bloodless students merely”—Theodore Roosevelt, Harvard alumnus, football booster, federal official and outdoors writer, in personal correspondence

1895  Feb 14  “What matters a few broken bones to the glories of football as an intercollegiate sport? Is there a boy in college that would not gladly risk a broken bone for the honor and glory of being on one of the great teams? I say I am the father of three boys. I do not know whether they are going to make athletes in college or not, but I will say right here that if I thought any one of them would weigh a possible broken bone against the glory of being chosen to play on Harvard’s football eleven, I would disinherit him!”—Theodore Roosevelt, U.S. Civil Service commissioner, ardent Harvard grid fan since a freshman student at Cambridge in 1876, in newspapers

1895  Feb 21  “Harvard men have talked about nothing else today except the action of the Harvard faculty last night. T. Jefferson Coolidge, a member of the Harvard overseers, said that he was personally opposed to this movement to abolish the game of football. Col. William A. Bancroft, Mayor of Cambridge and also a Harvard overseer, also intimated to-day that he would not support the faculty. But he would like to see the game limited to youths of twenty [and older] and would also have the gate money abolished”—New York World

1895  Feb 27  “A brutal game is no great feeder of the intellect and is not the sure way to literary honors. President Eliot, of Harvard, denounces the game as played. This leads Civil Service Reformer, Roosevelt, a regular foot ball crank, if not a foot ball savage, [to extol the sport]… Roosevelt is a corker. Has he brains enough to be reformer of any sort?”—Wilmington Messenger NC

1895  April 12  “The Harvard overseers [soon to appoint Roosevelt], as had been anticipated, refused to sustain the faculty yesterday in their anti-football decree, and gave the game a lease of life for at least another year”—Boston Post

1895  Sept 26  “Many friends of foot ball would resent having their favorite sport classed with pugilism, which is termed ‘degrading and barbarous.’ The admirers of pugilism have nothing good to say of foot ball. If knocking men down is barbarous in the prize ring, why not in a foot ball game, where hitting below the belt and butting are the rule and not the exception? … foot ball games are a terror to the community. The Pittsburgh Comet publishes a list of casualties in foot ball and prize fighting for the last five years. Foot ball games have caused 133 deaths, fractured 281 legs, broken 294 heads, broken 75 arms and 117 bones, maimed for life 212 persons and caused 377 other injuries. In the same length of time prize fighting has killed 3 persons and broken 5 bones”—Greenville Record-Argus PA

1895  Oct 15  “Line up, boys. Line up, quick. Better let us sell you your football toggery. No danger when you get our armor on. Have you been in this athletic department? Come in, look around, whether you want to buy or not. Football goods, golf goods, boxing and fencing goods, and pretty much anything you can ask for in the way of gymnasium paraphernalia. Probably the most comprehensive stock of its kind in the city, and from 15 to 25 per cent under the others’ prices”—Parker, Bridget & Co., advertisement, Washington Times DC

1895  Oct 17  “The Berkeley School football team [of Manhattan] played a match game at Berkeley Oval, Fordham Heights, yesterday afternoon with a team from Betts Academy of Stamford, Conn. During the game Frederick Mynders, eighteen years old, Captain of the Betts team, was caught in a scrimmage and seriously injured internally. … He was trying to rush the ball through centre when he was downed. Mynders, instead of holding his head down and butting the crowd in front of him, held his head bolt upright. When the crowd downed him his head was thrown backward and his body was twisted in the scrimmage”—New York Times

1895  Oct 19  “Henry Dobson was run into by the ‘flying wedge’ of the Eastern High School football team, and, as I am told, was unconscious nearly two hours. It is a wonder that he was not killed, and it seems to me that football rushes should be prohibited on the common playground”—Dr. H.A. Dobson, letter to editor, Washington Times DC

1895  Oct 19  “While the whole country is congratulating the Governors of Texas and Arkansas for their valiant stand against incursions of prize fighters and their friends it might be well for someone to suggest to other governors that it would save life and limb and promote public decency if extra sessions of the legislature were called to enact laws prohibiting football. It is long years since any such brutality has been exhibited in the prize ring as that which attends almost every game of football… due not to accident, but to sheer, brutal intention”—Washington Evening Times DC, opinion page

1895  Oct 19  “When the misfortunes of last year on the gridiron were fresh in the minds of the people it was freely predicted that football was done for in this vicinity. That prediction has fallen. There was probably never as many football teams in this locality as there are this season. There is the Columbia Athletic, the Potomac, the Gallaudet, the Orient, the teams of the various high schools, the Kendall Green, the Georgetown teams, the business college, the colored high school team, the Shamrocks and a half dozen or more other teams, all in full blast, and others coming on. There was never more interest taken in the game than there is at present. Fortunately nothing up to this hour has happened to put a damper on the sport. All of the boys and many of the men, and not a few of the gentler sex are bound up in it, and it is to be hoped the season will go through pleasantly and without casualties of a serious kind”—Washington Evening Times DC, sports section

1895  Nov 3  “Lieutenant Leonard Mr. Prince, Second Infantry, U.S.A., died at the [Chicago] Presbyterian Hospital yesterday from injuries received in the famous army and navy football game at Annapolis in 1892”—Charlotte Observer

1895  Nov 15  “As to the dangers of the game, let me make some suggestions. Many lives are lost among bathers. Should bathing be abolished? People are constantly thrown out of buggies, limbs broken and lives lost. Should buggy-riding be abolished? Two Sunday school scholars were killed by their teacher? Should Sunday schools be abolished? Children fall out of trees. Shall tree climbing be stopped, etc., etc. That there is little real danger in football is proved by the fact that the game goes on in all the colleges, and many of the schools, towns, villages and cities every day for many weeks, tens of thousands of players, and in proportion to the numbers engaged the serious accidents few”—Anonymous “prominent gentleman,” in Raleigh Observer NC

1895  Nov 22  “The Yale men wore more headgear and harness than has ever been seen in this city. The backs wore leather helmets with ear protectors and rubber nose masks, so that their friends were utterly unable to recognize them from the grand stand”—New York Post

1895  Nov 29  “If Moss, [local school] full back, would duck his head like Puck Dixon when he makes his rush through the center, there are but very few elevens that he could not go through. When Moss starts through the center, he holds himself erect and as a result twenty-one men pile on him. … If he ducked his head and made his rush he would go through the line like a shot as soon as he got on to it. … Puck Dixon as a half back is all right. He is better than any billy goat at butting”—Arkansas City Daily Traveler AR

1895  Nov 29  “The crusade against football which was inaugurated last year has proved a complete failure and everyone might as well realize that fact. The people of this advanced day seem to like reminder of the gladiatorial combats of medieval ages and the fiercer they are the more the populace howls in glee. Who is there now who has strength enough to tear the chrysanthemum-headed youths from their pedestals of glory and stem the tide of favor which runs so strongly towards football! Not one! The anti-football man seems to be… desolate and deserted”—Columbus Evening Dispatch OH

1895  Dec 1  “Traumatic insanity” is caused by brain lesions of head impacts and jarring, “a fracture of the mysterious network of filaments whose continuity is as essential to normal mental activity as is the continuity of a wire charged with electricity in order to the transmission of the electric fluid. A lesion may be compared to a melted fuse in an electric lighting system. Lesions of the brain are necessarily obscure, because invisible. The skull is an impenetrable covering. Where death occurs, as the sequel of insanity, an autopsy, if made, often reveals a large cerebral abscess, involving extensive tracts of the brain. In other post-mortem examinations the lesion is so minute as not to be discoverable without the aid of the microscope”—Frederick Howard Wines, theologian, hospital chaplain and prisons expert, writing for newspapers

1895  Dec 5  “What are the tendencies of the present ‘game’ of football? What elements of character does it have a strong tendency to develop and strengthen? What propensities and passions does it nourish and encourage? … We believe our board of education should [prohibit football]. Of course, they cannot control the actions of individual players when the schools are not in session; but they can absolutely control the conduct and relations of teachers in their employ with reference to this game. They can also control all organizations and associations among the pupils as such. In other words, they can free the schools of the city from the disgrace of countenancing and encouraging this species of pugilism”—Belle Plaine News KS

1895  Dec 22  “A college president in this State says it is idle to ‘kick’ against football; that the game is here to stay, and that even the second class colleges have teams. ‘Don’t fight the game,’ he added, ‘it is no use’ “—Charlotte Observer

1896  March 6  “It is a deplorable fact that football has spread to the public schools of the various states, and it is to be feared that ere long the standard of character and good behavior in these schools will not be much above that in the average college and preparatory school. We don’t know why it is, but there seems to be something about the game of football that promotes rowdyism”—Brown County World KS

1896  March 27  “Every individual fellow owes a debt of gratitude to a man who has the qualities of mind and body to make the team and who plays for Harvard. He reflects honor on us all and holds the interests of all of us in his hands”—Theodore Roosevelt, Harvard athletics overseer, speaking to students and fellow alumni on campus in Cambridge

1896  Oct 18  “The football eleven of the Chicago College of Physicians and Surgeons played the college team to a tie today and the crowd saw probably the closest contested game ever witnessed in Beloit and one of the wickedest in the matter of slugging that was ever played anywhere. The doctors outweighed Beloit [College] and seemed to want to kill someone and do it quickly and so began slugging from the start and it was not long before the rough work was not confined to one side by any means. … As the game was drawing to a close Hansell, one of the doctors, who had put up a fine game as left half back, began to act queer and was taken off the field, when he became unconscious and lay in that condition for several hours, but is recovering now. Some think he suffered from concussion of the brain”—Chicago Daily Tribune

1896  Nov 1  “Baine, the Indian halfback, did great work for Kansas [University] until he was laid out by a fierce tackle early in the first half. After that he did not know what he was doing. He played out the first half and then retired, Crooks taking his place. Baine was in bad shape and needed medical attention. The doctors said he was in a bad way and feared concussion of the brain. He certainly looked like a very sick man when he left the field”—Kansas City Journal MO

1896  Nov 7  William Baine, concussed KU halfback, plays against Nebraska with head protection later described as an early anti-concussion “helmet.” Bert Kennedy, KU quarterback who became a Lawrence dentist, would later recall: “Blaine, a Sioux Indian youth we found at Haskell Institute, was our star. Despite the fact he had no more than a fourth grade education, we enrolled him in the school of law and kept him eligible. He suffered a slight concussion of the brain in practice before the Nebraska game and we fashioned a padded canvas headpiece to protect him. It was the first football helmet I ever saw. Blaine made K.U.’s first touchdown in the first half. We were trying to stall and I called a right end run merely to get the ball in the middle of the field. The Indian protested that his head ached and he couldn’t run. But he traveled 60 yards to a touchdown so fast the Nebraskans never laid a hand on him”—The Associated Press [1944 Oct 20]

1896  Nov 29  “There may be some kicking among the football players at the decision of the school board to discourage the game, but parents will generally endorse the board’s action. The frequent occurrence of fatal accidents in the game has caused a prejudice against football that can only be overcome by radical changes in the rules. Athletic sports should be encouraged, but this does not necessarily mean football; there are other games in which the boys will find plenty of amusement and ample exercise”—Sedalia Democrat MO

1896  Dec 1  “I believe it is a most brutal sport, and I am not sure but that it is a matter demanding legal restraint. … If the same sporting element followed football games as follows prize fighting, it would have been suppressed long ago. It is the gamblers and sports who support prize fighting that have brought public sentiment in opposition to it. In the case of football, a respectable part of society has countenanced it. College men play it, and the people receive it as legitimate sport. And, besides, the young ladies seem to look with special favor upon football heroes. I have no doubt in my mind that many a young man plays most vigorous football because he knows his lady friends are looking at him, and after the game he hopes to bask in the sunshine of their smiles”—Gov. Claude Matthews, Indiana, in Chicago Inter Ocean

1896  Dec 19  “Modern football players believe in protecting their heads. … The rubber nose mask, which covers the mouth as well, and the leather helmet are devices that seem almost indispensable. The helmet that is in use now not only covers the top of the head with a cap of hard leather, but protects the ears with two big muffs made of thick felt”—Chicago Eagle

1897  Jan 5  “An act of cruelty I would not permit for one moment, but I do very emphatically believe in boxing and football, and in all forms of rough, out-of-door, manly sports. … Somehow or other we must see that as men grow gentle and more honest, they do not grow weak or cowardly, and it will be a bad day for this Republic when we let the bad men monopolize the physical courage and rough energy of the community”—Theodore Roosevelt, New York City police commissioner, in New York Tribune

1897  Jan 23  “While the college Presidents are considering the matter of changing the rules of football so as to make the game less hazardous, the [Indiana] Legislature has taken the matter in hand and promises to do away with the game entirely in this State. Representative E.L. Patterson, a Franklin County doctor, today introduced a bill to that effect, and it was the first measure thus far proposed that has met with applause when its title was read. Dr. Patterson has witnessed many games, including the big annual events in the East, and makes the declaration that more men have been killed by football than by pugilism”—Chicago Daily Tribune

1897  Jan 30  “Several Harvard football players said recently in regard to the anti-football bills introduced in Indiana and Nebraska, that it was their opinion that such legislation could not be but the work of cranks. Arthur M. Beal, the quarterback, expressed his condemnation of the proposed legislation as being senseless and practically illegal”—Chicago Inter Ocean

1897  May 12  “College students and athletic associations in Michigan are considerably agitated over a pending measure in the Legislature of that State to prohibit football contests”—Angola Herald IN

1897  Oct 2  “The style of game for this [football] season will be varied somewhat but only in the details. Much of kicking will be done. Not only does it make the game a better one for the spectators, but it is a sure, safe game, and especially on a windy day is the winning game. The line work will be more open and easier to watch… doing away of mass plays”—Lincoln Courier NE

1897  Oct 19  “Ninety-nine out of every 100 patrons of the Harrodsburg graded school will say ‘Amen’ to Prof. Bell’s good judgment in prohibiting football on the school grounds, says the [Harrodsburg] Democrat”—Stanford Interior Journal KY

1897  Oct 20  “The clerical reformers have entered on a new crusade against football. And yet some of our divinity students have been the fiercest and sturdiest of football players while fitting themselves to fight the devil”—San Francisco Call

1897  Oct 27  “Andrew Hasche died in the Astoria Hospital [Tuesday]. His neck had been broken in a football game at Casino Beach, L.I., on Sunday afternoon. He was a finely built fellow of nineteen years… Hasche was taken to the Astoria Hospital and attended by Dr. James F. Trask and Dr. W. Baldwin Wayt—the latter being particularly interested in the case, as he was recently a member of the University of Virginia eleven and had seen two deaths on the football field. In the hospital Hasche was put to bed with sandbags ranged beside him to keep him in position, and particularly to prevent his head from rolling. The physicians said it was a hopeless task. … ‘It’s a pity,’ Dr. Wayt said. ‘The young man had a superb physique. I do not see how anybody can be blamed. It was the game. The post-mortem has not yet been held, but it will show undoubtedly that there was a fracture dislocation of the sixth cervical vertebra of the spine.’ … The unfortunate player was running with the ball, his head down and his neck extended… the exact position which would make a blow fatal”—New York World

1897  Nov 1  “Von Gammon, one of the players on the University of Georgia football team, died this morning from injuries received in a game… Gammon never regained consciousness after a scrimmage at the beginning of the second half. … His death has stirred prejudice against the game among the members of the State Legislature, which is now in session. A number of legislators expressed themselves today as bitterly opposed to the game, and it is probable that a bill will be passed in a few days making it a misdemeanor to engage in a game of football in this State”—Pittsburgh Daily Post

1897  Nov 9  “Alderman Platke, author of the theater hat ordinance, will introduce at a special meeting of the City Council, called for this afternoon, a measure to prohibit the playing of football anywhere within the limits of the city of Chicago. In speaking of his anti-football ordinance, Alderman Platke said: ‘I’d rather see a prize-fight any day than a game of football. It teaches school children to be brutal’ “—Oakland Tribune

1897  Nov 10  “The jury in the Costello-Winston case returned a verdict for the defendant. The action was brought by M. Costello of Duluth against P.B. Winston, the Minneapolis capitalist, to recover $50,000 damages. In a high school game at Duluth Mr. Costello’s son was thrown out of a flying wedge and permanently crippled. He contended that Mr. Winston’s son threw him out. The defense did not attempt to show that rough character of the game”—Humeston New Era IA

1897  Nov 14  “An ordinance prohibiting football was introduced in the [St. Louis] house of delegates by ex-Speaker Lloyd at the meeting of that body last night. Mr. Lloyd says the game, as played, is worse than prizefighting, and while he presents the measure by request, it is in accordance with his own views”—newspapers report

1897  Nov 16  “The governor of Arkansas strongly urges the president and trustees of the state university to prohibit football. When football or anything else gets too bad for Arkansas to endure, it is surely time to stop and think about it”—Lawrence Daily Journal KS

1897  Nov 19  “Statistics have been carefully kept by a Philadelphian since the last uproar against foot ball in 1894 and proved the absurdity of branding foot ball the most dangerous of sports and one to be abolished. Since April, 1894, he records the fatal accidents due to swimming at 1,350. Boating has the next place, with a list of 986, of which 354 occurred to followers of fishing. Of the men who would a-hunting go 645 have failed to return, and the past year alone charges up to the bicycle the death of 264 persons. Horseback riding claims 333; ice boating, 22; base ball, 6; tennis, 4, and golf, 2. Against these, foot ball, which by its immense patronage is proven to be the most popular game of the century, stands alone arraigned with a list of fatal accidents amounting in four season to 11”—Wilkes-Barre Record PA

1897  Nov 20  “A conservative medical journal, the Philadelphia Medical Record, makes a weighty deliverance against football. It is a high authority on medical matters, and what it says should have a great influence. … Says the Medical Record: ‘Short of actual death on the field, not much account is taken of the hundreds of young men who are oftentimes injured for life as the result of the rough-and-tumble methods of the match. The trainers explain the number of injuries by the lack of requisite physical preparation for the contest, but, in reality, the more the footballers are trained the more dangerous becomes the game. It is certainly time we should look the matter fairly in the face. If we want to develop pluck, courage, endurance and strength we can do so in more healthful and safer ways”—Pittsburgh Daily Post

1897  Nov 21 “In a football game between Hughes high school and Walnut Hills high school, Cincinnati, O., there was a riotous free fight. … This town is in a state of mind to-day against juvenile football and is likely to prohibit it altogether. … [A] grammar school has taken on the appearance of a miniature hospital. Several of the boys of the town have hobbled about for days and attended school only with the aid of crutches. Others have appeared with bandaged limbs, and scratches and bruises have been and are now a very common sight. What makes the aspect of affairs more serious is the knowledge that these boys in nearly every instance are from 10 to 15 years of age and not as yet out of the grammar grades”—Kansas City Journal KS

1897  Nov 21  “The agitation of the [Springfield] grammar school football question some time ago has resulted in making it very improbable that there will be any grammar school league next year. … One principal, Miss Harriet C. Emerson, of the Burrows school, has said definitely that her school boys will not be allowed to remain in the league. She has decided that the game is not suitable for grammar school boys, not only for the physical danger, but because of the mental distraction to the pupils in the match games and in the ill feeling that grows out of it”—Springfield Republican MA

1897  Nov 24  “Bicycling and Football—A St. Louis man killed himself yesterday, his mind having been affected, so it is stated, by injuries received in a bicycle accident. According to the notion of the anti-football zealots, this would afford sufficient excuse for the Legislature of Missouri to enact a law forbidding the use of wheels in this state”—Kansas City Star

1897  Dec 2  “The [Richmond] city union of the King’s Daughters will meet tomorrow to prepare a petition to the Legislature asking it to prepare a petition to the Legislature asking it to prohibit football in this state”—Richmond Dispatch VA

1897  Dec 4  “Of course the true spirit of football does not animate every boy… It is the same spirit that nerves the country boy to catch the wild colt, ride and master it; it is the same spirit that stirs the school fellow on the playground to take the side of the weak; it is the same spirit that prompts the trained swimmer to attempt the rescue of the drowning when the onlookers stand with blanched cheeks; it is one and the same spirit that gives us our leaders, whether in war or peace. … No boy should be allowed to play in any game with any constitutional defect or any inability, and even [if] sound, without being in condition; and even then, mere youths, immature and undeveloped, no matter what their skill and spirit, should not be allowed to contend with giants in strength and stature. According to age and weight they should be classed as light, middle and heavy weights, and this will be done, but that is not the work of any legislature; it is peculiarly and wholly the duty of the guardians of the boys, whether at home, school, college or university”—T.P. Branch, letter to Georgia governor, reprinted in Atlanta Constitution

1897  Dec 6  Ultimately no state will outlaw tackle football, although Georgia comes close in a bill that reaches the governor’s desk for signature. “Governor Atkinson has decided to veto the anti-football bill, and is preparing a statement to be sent to the Georgia Legislature explaining why he has decided to withhold his approval from it. … The bill was passed in the hat of prejudice against football caused by the killing of young Von Gammon, of the University of Georgia team on the gridiron last month, and the legislators felt that they were avenging his death by promptly providing against future accidents of a similar nature. It turns out that Von Gammon comes from a Spartan family and that neither his relatives nor his friends are seeking that sort of vengeance. It is his own mother who has induced the Governor to veto the bill. Mrs. Von Gammon, in a petition to the Governor, states that football was her son’s favorite game, and that if he could be consulted he would join in the request of his fellow students for the defeat of the bill. She calls the Governor’s attention to the fact that two of her son’s schoolmates, William Reynolds and Arthur Goetchins, recently met accidental deaths, one by falling over a precipice and one by falling downstairs. Mrs. Von Gammon asks if it is not as sensible for the Legislature to abolish precipices and stairways on account of these deaths as it is to abolish football because of the death of her son”—Baltimore Sun

1897  Dec 10  “No very drastic measures need to be taken to remove the principal ill of modern football, that of mass plays. … The element of danger can never be removed from the sport, no matter how the rules are altered, any more than that element can be taken away from polo, hunting, basket-ball and many other games, which are just as dangerous as football—provided the mass play is eliminated from the latter game. No contest where men run at full speed in-and-out in confined space can ever be otherwise than dangerous, so far as bumped heads and bodies bruised by collision are concerned”—Rochester Democrat and Chronicle NY

1897  Dec 15  “[Washington] Public School Trustee Wilson fired the first gun at football so far as it affects pupils under the jurisdiction of himself and his colleagues last night. He introduced a resolution at the regular meeting of the board, placing certain restrictions on the game as played by the local high school teams. … First—No boy shall become a member of any school football team against the wishes of his parent of guardian after notification to the principal of the school. Second—All contests shall be confined to teams of about total average weight. Third—Games shall be played only with teams connected with some educational institution. Fourth—Each team shall be supervised by some school official, to be designated by the school principal, who shall have absolute power to decide upon all questions of its membership, the proper clothing and physical condition of its members, and no match game shall be played without his authority”—Washington Times DC

1897  Dec 24  “Since legislation has been aimed at foot-ball, the [officials] of the game have met in convention and decided to adopt new rules, leaving out some of the butting-ram and thunder-and-lightning features, so that playing foot-ball in the future will not be much more dangerous than breaking wild Mexican broncos”—Crawfordville Gulf Coast Breeze FL

1897  Dec 31  “If the new football armor makes the game perfectly safe, the public will be sure to lose all interest in the sport”—Washington Star DC

1898  Jan 5  “A player is killed in a football game. There is plenty of law to cover the case. But nobody thinks of applying that law by arresting, indicting and trying somebody for manslaughter… It is absurd to pass a law prohibiting football only for the sake of preventing manslaughter and mayhem on the gridiron because, for the accomplishment of that object, such a law is entirely superfluous”—Rochester Democrat and Chronicle NY

1898  Jan 27  “Assistant Secretary of the Navy [Theodore] Roosevelt received the ovation that is always his when he comes before an audience of Harvard men. He spoke slowly and forcibly, as he always does, receiving generous applause throughout. He said: ‘I don’t suppose there is a man here among the graduates who does not have a feeling, no matter what part of the country he is in, of personal interest in Harvard athletics. … I am a great believer in athletics, a very great believer. I feel that the university should do more than merely develop intellect. Intellect is a good thing, but there is something better, and that is character, force, strength of will power to hold one’s self, to bear one’s self as a man among men, and athletics, no less than study, help to develop the character. …  I have not got the least objection to field sports with the element of personal contact in them. I trust that we shall develop men, and plenty of them, and when they buck up against the man opposite they will go through him and play for every ounce that is in them as gentlemen’ ”—Boston Daily Globe

1898  Nov 9  “A new helmet for football players has been placed upon the market and is pronounced complete by experts. … The new helmet completely protects the head and ears. The crown of it is made of tough sole leather, filled with air holes and lined with soft felt. It has stout earlaps of leather, with holes in them so that the wearer can bear the signals, and a strong elastic band, which buckles under the chin and keeps the new headgear firmly in place”—Logansport Pharos-Tribune IN

1898  Nov 12  “The board of education has decided to prohibit football playing on the school grounds”—Salina Daily Union KS

1899  April 10  “I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life, the life of toil and effort, of labor and strife; to preach that highest form of success which comes, not to the man who desires mere easy peace, but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph”—Theodore Roosevelt, New York governor and press hero of the American “war” with Spain in Cuba, from his speech “The Strenuous Life

1899  June 29  “George Miller, son of J.S. Miller, living near Doniphan, was declared insane as a result of a blow received in a football game while he was playing with the Midland college [team] in Atchison a year and a half ago”—Columbus Weekly Advocate KS

1899  Oct 15  Popular music is banned at the University of Chicago while officials sanction head-knocking football as educational. At the game with Cornell: “The University of Chicago band played ‘There’ll Be a Hot Time in The Old Time Tonight’ and went un-rebuked, although that is a tabooed melody at the university, its moral tone not being considered altogether compatible with scholastic life. [Then running back] Slaker’s hooded head broke through the Cornell line for a short gain… Slaker’s battering-ram head was again sent hammering away at Cornell’s line and another touchdown counted”—Chicago Daily Tribune

1899  Oct 22  “The Elgin High School football team defeated the Lake Forest Academy team 27 to 0. During the game Trumbull, quarter back, of the Lake Forest team, received a blow on the head which caused temporary insanity. He raved several hours before he could be calmed. It is feared he suffered concussion of the brain”—Chicago Daily Tribune

1899  Oct 29  “How to Tackle Safely: Now about tackling. The reckless boy who is playing for the grand stand will often get his head just where the runner’s knee will strike it and there is a severe shock. The best way to learn tackling is with a dummy with head thrown to one side. That saves your head. The moment you have a grip on the runner pull him toward you with all your strength. That is the secret of good tackling. Another point is to go at your man without hesitation and in doing this you may have to overlook the rule about keeping the head to one side. The softest place to put it is in the other man’s stomach. That makes a pretty tackle, too”—F.C. Armstrong, MD and football coach of Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, writing for newspapers

1899  Nov 16  “James Franks, Captain and right half back of the Lewis grade school football eleven [in Englewood, Ill.], is in a critical condition, the result of injuries received in a gridiron struggle with the Normal park school team. … Frank has suffered greatly and has been kept continuously under the influence of opiates. The nature of his injury is such little food can be given him. … The accident has aroused considerable feeling among parents of the Englewood pupils antagonistic to football. … Parents are saying as a part of grade school training football is too severe. Miss Vreeland, teacher of the eighth grade, to which Frank belonged, will endeavor to stop the play among pupils of the Lewis school”—Chicago Daily Tribune

1899  Nov 24  “After spending several more days investigating the death of John Wright, right tackle of the football team of the Christian Brothers’ college, who was injured November 11, in a game with the St. Louis university eleven, the [city] coroner’s jury today returned the following verdict: ‘We, the jury, find that the game was played strictly according to Rugby rules; but we believe the game is dangerous, and should be prohibited’ ”—newspapers report

1899  Nov 26  “Bumping along down the field the [Princeton blockers’] orange and black striped legs flashed along, warding off the [Yale] blue legged runners perfectly, while the stocky [Princeton ball-carrier] Reiter, with a head armor that looked like a coal scuttle, kept going”—Chicago Daily Tribune

1899  Dec 9  “The Strenuous American Approaches: The days of the politician who depends upon the old, threadbare subterfuges are about numbered, and the athlete in statesmanship is about to leap into public favor. … Heretofore our so-called statesmen have relied almost exclusively upon their lung power for propulsion and maintenance. In the future we are to have the opportunity to contemplate and admire the public man who brings all his physical self into play. The man who calls to arms all sections of his anatomy when he engages in battle. … It made its appearance [in Congress] this week when the Hon. William Eaton Chandler introduced a bill providing for the increase of the efficiency of the West Point and Annapolis Academies by physical training instead of excessive mental education. Mr. Chandler’s bill provides that the higher mathematics and languages shall be succeeded to a certain degree by what he is pleased to term ‘the game of golf, bicycling, baseball, and football.’ … We have no doubt that Mr. Chandler will be magnanimous to concede that he was prompted to move in this direction by the achievements of the Hon. Theodore Roosevelt. The man who could don the uniform of a rough rider, mount a prancing steed, and perforate the atmosphere with [bullet] lead and shouts in such a forcible manner as to ride into the New York governorship and the affections of the book publishers is worthy of emulation”—Washington Post

1899  Dec 9  So-called government football is fully restored at Army and Navy academies while a federal “Indian School” in Pennsylvania, Carlisle Institute, rises as gridiron power. Carlisle is coached by affable, shifty Glenn “Pop” Warner, reputed for rules-skirting and head-ramming teams he builds of Native American men and boys. “When they go to Carlisle for the five-year course they do not know the difference between a football and a pumpkin, as their manager [Warner] expresses it. When the Indian team has a new player he is a real novice. … In view of the fact that the highest class in the Indian School is no further advanced than the first year of an ordinary high school, the Indians’ claim that the four-year-college playing limit should not have many arguments in its favor, for the status of the school is not above that of an ordinary preparatory institution where many future varsity players engage in football for four or five years before they enter college. During their six seasons the Indians have played about ten games a year with different colleges. … Dash and unity describe the Indians’ style of play. The linesmen tear forward the instant the ball is snapped, and seem trained to jump through and break up the opposing play before it is well started. Metoxen, the full-back, rated the greatest line bucker on an American gridiron this season, smashes forward head down, low and with terrific force”—San Francisco Chronicle

1899  Dec 21  “The full armored football player of to-day bears a striking resemblance to the knights of the middle ages in battle array, minus his spear and his sword. … The result of the great advance in the science of football has been to do away, first of all, with the dangers of the game. All the tricks that made football so dangerous a few years ago have either been discarded or have been prohibited. Teams all over the country are now playing the old-fashioned open game, with lots of punting and runs around the end of the line. This game, however, is harder than the game of a dozen years ago. Interference, diving tackles, line bucking and formation plays make the players more liable to cuts and bruises. For this reason, the armor of football has not been discarded. On the other hand, it has been added to from year to year. All sorts of devices have been tried to protect the players from hard knocks and bruises. … Every physical trainer has his own little kit of tools, medicines and bandages, which he applies according to his own ideas. Every big team is haunted by dozens of specialists with new devices for protecting the players, new kinds of foods for making boys strong, and every sort of mechanism that might have been useful in a tilting tournament”—New York Herald

Copyright ©2016 for historical arrangement by Matthew L. Chaney

Matt Chaney is a writer, researcher and consultant on public issues in sport, specializing in American football for three decades. Chaney, an MA in media studies, is a former college football player and coach whose books include Spiral of Denial: Muscle Doping in American Football, from his Four Walls Publishing in 2009Chaney’s study for graduate thesis, co-published with the University of Central Missouri in 2001, analyzed print sport-media coverage of anabolic substances in football from 1983-1999. Email him at mattchaney@fourwallspublishing.com or visit the website for more information.

Football Helmets, ‘HEADS UP’ THEORY and Brain Disease, 1883-1962

Today’s football officials like NFL commissioner Roger Goodell tout their safety measures as new, including Heads Up “technique” for headless hitting—but historical news and medical literature tell a different story

Brain Injury in American Football: 130 Years of Knowledge and Denial

Part Three in a Series

By Matt Chaney, ChaneysBlog.com

Posted Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Copyright ©2016 by Matthew L. Chaney

I. Introduction

II. 1883-1906: Anti-Butting Rule, ‘Head Up’ for Safer Football

III. 1909-1915: Open Game Spurs High Tackling, Call for ‘Heads Up’

IV. 1920s: ‘Punch Drunk’ Questions, An Answer by Martland

V. 1930s: CTE Evidence, Debate Cast Football as Causal Suspect

VI. 1940: Plastic Helmet Panacea, Psychiatrists Coin CTE Term

VII. 1962: Reselling Anti-Concussion Helmets and Heads Up

This post is dedicated to Donnovan Hill, 18, who died today in his homestate California, a mighty young man

Controversy overtook American football again by 1960, reigniting debate and recommendations for the collision sport. A scourge of brain and spinal injuries threatened football’s standing, particularly at thousands of schools and youth leagues.

Football boasted an estimated 2.5 million players, including a million prepubescent kids. The American Medical Association wanted doctors on sidelines during games, and some AMA physicians labeled tackle football as inappropriate for children.

“We have itsy-bitsy leagues of all descriptions, and we don’t have to like them,” said Dr. Robert R. MacDonald, of Pittsburgh, speaking with Time magazine. “The overwhelming opinion among physicians is against contact sports for elementary and junior high school students.”

“Children are not little men,” said another doctor, unidentified, speaking at an AMA meeting in Washington, D.C. “Cutting down the field and changing the rules doesn’t make football a kid’s sport.”

Health writer Dr. William Brady condemned football for juveniles and insinuated that most medical professionals stood by silently. “With almost no exception, physicians, orthopedic surgeons, and physical education instructors who are not afraid to be counted say football is a grown man’s game and not a game for growing boys,” Brady declared in his national newspaper column. “It is dangerous enough for college or university men.”

American football had withstood crisis before, including for “concussion” or traumatic brain injury,  TBI, of varied description. But after World War II the public cringed over player collisions in hard-shell helmets, and scrutiny fell upon football’s growth sector of grade-school and “peewee” leagues. In 1956 the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended no tackle football for boys until high school.

Plastic helmets had been released commercially during the war, a technical collaboration between football and military designers that changed collision risk on the gridiron. A review of football fatalities from 1947 to 1959 found prime causation shifting away from abdominal bleeding and infection to damages of the brain and neck.

Football was compelled to respond, along with associate enterprises of sports medicine and helmet manufacturing. This unofficial alliance shared profit synergy and motive to expand football, especially among Baby Boomer children, while trying to alleviate casualties and answer critics.

Football officials and associates—including many doctors, AMA members—acknowledged disability and death could never be eliminated, even for kids. But they promised “safer football” that reduced casualties to an unspecified minimum, and their ideas poured forth, disseminated by news media who questioned little for concept validity, reliability or feasibility.

The 1960s helmets would prevent concussion, finally, declared the “football experts.” Anti-TBI models had failed since 1899, starting with patent sole-leather, but now the experts touted polycarbonate plastic shells, rigid facemasks, interior liners and padded covers. They extolled space-age helmet gadgetry, transistor sensors to measure g-forces of head blows, in the all-out research mission of football safety.

Football organizers, coaches, game doctors and academics spoke of rule changes and headless hitting, based on “proper coaching” for safe blocking, tackling and running. Helmet “spearing” and facemask butting were denounced, and in 1962 the college coaches association emphasized “heads up” form for players—anti-butting theory already applied in American football, unsuccessfully, for 79 years.

1883-1906: Anti-Butting Rule, ‘Head Up’ For Safer Football

American athletics expanded along with industry in the 19th century, booming after the Civil War, and sport casualties became a national health problem. Injuries to head and neck led every mainstream sport to ban “butting,” but in tackle football the policy was inapplicable among forward-colliding players.

Rules of American football, based on rugby, evolved to set a line of scrimmage between opposing teams, to designate ball possession for one side at a time, and to assess loss of possession for a team’s failure to advance five yards in three downs. Blocking lines formed, disallowed in rugby, and ramming became prevalent in American football, with injurious collisions reported routinely by newspapers, especially of the “rush line.”

In 1883 the athlete-managed Intercollegiate Football Association [IFA] outlawed butting, defined as Striking a man with the shoulder or head. Problems rose immediately, challenging chief rulemaker Walter Camp for his multi-interests of football—he also refereed games, coached the Yale team, wrote for publishers. America recognized Camp, a 24-year-old Yale graduate and former player, as preeminent authority of “foot ball.”

Referees like Camp could do little to enforce anti-butting within football’s daring runs and thrilling collisions demanded by spectators. Referees only made cursory calls against head-on strikes, citing the most flagrant violations, and the inconsistency ignited controversy when penalties affected victory or defeat.

Trouble struck late in a game of 1885, when Lehigh center Ross Pierce was ejected for butting a Lafayette player, leading to game forfeit. “Lehigh claimed that this was an unjust decision,” reported The Wilkes-Barre Times. ”The Lehigh faculty ordered the men off the field, whereupon the referee [W.C. Posey], as compelled by the rules, gave the game to Lafayette.”

Elsewhere, Yale was notorious as a butting team, and Coach Camp’s affinity for head-knocking play reflected in his comportment as field referee. Camp, for example, conspicuously ignored the violation while refereeing a game of Harvard versus Princeton, which The New York Sun described as “a contest in butting and wrestling” highlighted by “battering ram” hits.

Terrible injuries piled up for American football, including for unrestrained “slugging,” fist punches. Concussion of the brain occurred nationwide, per press reports, along with deaths from cerebral and spinal damage, and rulemakers caught ridicule, particularly since most doubled as inept referees like Camp. The IFA committee promised strict rules enforcement in 1887, adding an “umpire” to aid the referee in a game, and commanding team captains to police player behavior.

Officials analyzed collision contact in hope of eliminating dangerous “high tackling.” Coaches and football-friendly professors penned how-to layouts on safe tackling published in newspapers, complete with illustrations. Players were instructed to strike with shoulder and chest while keeping head to one side, out of harm’s way. “Foul tackling” was defined as hits below the waist and above neckline. But nothing changed and rulemakers acted again, sanctioning blocking on offense while lowering the legal tackle zone to above the knees. Coaches preached “low tackling” with “eyes open” to avoid head shots from churning thighs and feet.

But contact theory and policy could not alter the necessary, inherent ramming of football, and Camp took flak for his officiating fiasco at the 1888 Thanksgiving game between Wesleyan and the University of Pennsylvania.

“Only one man was disqualified,” observed The New York Tribune, “when there should have been a half dozen.” The New York Times, under its sarcastic headline “Not A Man Killed,” reported “both teams endeavored to find out which possessed the most force as battering rams, and they were ramming away most cheerfully when time was called at 4:45, just as it was growing too dark to see.”

Camp responded to the New York press, laying blame for the bloody contest onto players of Penn and Wesleyan, alleging they failed to “tackle properly.” His IFA rules committee huddled further, dropping the term “butting” from code in official printings of 1890, with the edition edited by Camp and published by his business associates at Spalding equipment company.

Thus America’s first football rule to address butting was erased, and Camp proclaimed head hits legal except when a tackler draped a runner’s neck, “throttling” or choking him. Indeed, Camp’s Yale teams capitalized on attacking “like human pile-drivers,” stated a national story. Likewise, for college teams that Camp advised on his California sojourns, “The head or skull of a contestant is quite frequently called into service,” reported The San Francisco Call.

Yale stood peerless for winning football and most recently for revolutionary isolation blocking, sending men through line holes to clear downfield for ball-carriers. Yale players were proficient in head-butting defenders, raved journalists and game insiders. “Yale’s rush line was too strong for Princeton. It was like a battering ram,” newspapers reported of the 1890 game on Thanksgiving.

Brain casualties were acceptable for Camp, but likewise for all football officials and fans, or the game could not exist. Newspapers of the Gay Nineties commonly reported “concussion of the brain” in football, among descriptions of TBI incidents from New York to the Hawaiian Islands. Player symptoms publicized besides “knockout” included headache, memory loss, nausea, balance dysfunction, personality change and mood swings.

Medical specialists treated TBI casualties of early football for all degrees of severity, down to diagnosing “slight concussion” through clinical criteria recognized for decades. “Cerebral concussion with persistent symptoms was described by Boyer in 1822, Astley Cooper in 1827, and Dupuytren in 1839,” observed Dr. Randolph W. Evans in 1994, reviewing the literature timeline.

Physicians of the 1890s could recognize TBI in football players, acute symptoms such as amnesia and violent behavior, but there existed no validated treatment nor reliable injury management. Conservative approach dictated rest and isolation for concussed football players, and doctors urged some to quit the sport—medical opinion prone to dispute by coaches and trainers. Many doctors believed concussed football players could die of brain hemorrhage when returned to contact too quickly.

Moreover, given medicine’s experience with railroad accidents and warfare of industrial artillery, many experts believed brain disease could result from impacts and jarring of any source. Collision football posed obvious risk for cerebral trauma and disorder, those “nervous conditions” already known in the courts as “railway brain” and traumatic insanity. Pathologists utilizing microscopic autopsy found tiny lesions in brain tissue, “a fracture of the mysterious network of filaments… essential to normal mental activity,” prisons expert Frederick Howard Wines wrote in 1895. “A lesion may be compared to a melted fuse in an electric lighting system.”

Medical Record, a journal in Philadelphia, called for abolishing football, “productive of the greatest variety of surgical injuries to every part of the body.” The journal editorialized about tone deafness of society for football casualties. “Short of actual death on the field, not much account is taken of the hundreds of young men who are oftentimes injured for life as the result of the rough-and-tumble methods of the match.”

The football-adoring public had to ignore medical literature and opinion, for cheering the athletic street fight on fields. An Iowa newspaper hyped imagery of ramming heads—foreshadowing future NFL television graphics of clashing helmets—for the opening of college football in 1895. “The Cornell (Mt. Vernon) College foot-ball team will be here next Saturday… to butt heads and tangle limbs and scramble for the ball with the U.I.U. team,” heralded The Fayette County Leader.

Football coaches, trainers, and team physicians surely grasped TBI danger but sought to sustain their lucrative sport, not end it because of irremovable forward-colliding. And head-ramming typically influenced victory for which team did it better, so successful coaches beyond Yale stressed the attack—especially when all of football counted on emerging headgear for neutralizing injury threat.

“There is no use in exposing a man’s head to bruises which the modern football harness largely prevents…,” noted The Chicago Daily Tribune, “the protection of nose guards, ear pads, and the various devices in use make him feel more secure from hurt.” The newspaper observed a “carefully harnessed” team at University of Chicago, the powerful Maroons of coach Amos Alonzo Stagg.

Stagg had starred as a “butting” player at Yale and the philosophy continued for teams he coached. Stagg said he tried teaching the Maroons safer “low tackling” but they were slow to learn. Rather, Stagg’s players aimed “for a man’s head,” reported The Chicago Inter Ocean.

Glenn “Pop” Warner coached at the government Carlisle Institute in Pennsylvania, for young American Indians, and his teams thrived on trick plays and butting throughout the field. The reputation preceded Carlisle on a West Coast trip in 1899, with The San Francisco Chronicle’s reporting:

Dash and unity describe the Indians’ style of play. The backs all crouch like sprinters on the mark, and are off… The linesmen tear forward the instant the ball is snapped, and seem trained to jump through and break up the opposing play before it is well started. [Jonas] Metoxen, the full-back, rated the greatest line-bucker on an American gridiron this season, smashes forward head down, low and with terrific force…

Butting was no small concern for football officials, however, as predictable brain and spine casualties continued despite reform of “brutality” hyped by Camp from 1894 to 1897. The initial helmet models of rubber and leather were proving no remedy for TBI, so officials kept pushing theory of headless contact, promising to teach players.

“The best way to learn tackling is with a dummy with head thrown to one side; that saves your head,” commented Dr. F.C. Armstrong, coach-physician of Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, for his how-to article in newspapers. But Armstrong acknowledged the game’s frenetic colliding could not be choreographed. Often the tackler had to halt his foe however necessary, “and in doing this you may have to overlook the rule about keeping the head to one side,” the coach advised. “The softest place to put it is in the other man’s stomach. That makes a pretty tackle, too.”

But a few years later Pratt scrapped football because of the incorrigible violence, in 1906, middle of football season. Institute administrators cited brain injury as particularly incompatible with education, for ethics and practical purposes.

Supposedly the game had been cleansed of brutality through “open play” rules instituted after invention by President Theodore Roosevelt, but Pratt officials disagreed. “Yes, we have dropped football,” confirmed J. Martin Voorhees, director of physical education, speaking with The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. “We find that the game has been brutalized to such an extent that a player has to be practically a prize fighter to endure the knocks.”

“That was our experience at Princeton a few weeks ago. We were beaten 27 to 0, but it was not the defeat that came as hard as the breaking of bones and other knocks that were dealt out to us, and I want to say that it was not by unfair methods either, but by football as it is insisted upon today by those who framed the new rules.

“Why, we have today a boy who has concussion of the brain as the result of that contest,” Voorhees continued. “And he is not out of danger yet. That is only one of the cases. There are several others, and I hold the new rules are responsible. It was put up to the committee last night and we simply decided to abolish the game.”

1909-1915: Open Game Spurs High Tackling, Call for ‘Heads Up’

In years following the football reform led by Teddy Roosevelt, recorded injuries dwindled on the team at Harvard, his alma mater, but that was an exception.

Most outlets reported negligible positive results while ferocity of football collisions apparently heightened—and concussions of the brain increased—because of the “open game.” The charged-up field of forward passes, outside runs and sweep blocks produced brutal smashups in free spaces, with less “mass” formations to slow traffic. “High tackling” was blamed for numerous casualties.

“The revised rules of the game have not fulfilled the hopes of their framers,” editorialized The Waterloo Press in Indiana, “the speed and combination plays have proved almost as hazardous.”

“Has Football Reform Failed?” posed The Harrisburg Courier of Pennsylvania, stating “not even the football rule makers can wipe out the bone breaking features of the game by substituting one kind of danger for another.” In Philadelphia, students of a medical college voted to ban the football program after a player died of brain hemorrhage.

“SEASON JUST CLOSED MOST DISASTROUS IN HISTORY OF FOOTBALL: 29 MEN KILLED,” headlined The Topeka Daily Capital on Thanksgiving weekend in Kansas, 1909.

A movement opposed boys football in high schools and “midget” leagues, led by doctors and medical journals, but the naysayers also included NCAA officials, college coaches, grid stars and university presidents. Some lawmakers moved to ban juvenile football in Indiana, New York City, Boston, West Orange, N.J., further locales. Former President Roosevelt supported boys football but admitted reform had fallen short, saying most schools lacked supervision and he wished the game were “less homicidal.”

High schools in the nation’s capital banned hits above neckline and the forward pass: “For Safer Football,” headlined The Washington Herald. Nationwide, officials discussed eliminating kickoffs, barring quarterback runs, penalizing “flying” tackles and blocks. Coaches everywhere reemphasized shoulder tackling and blocking.

“Heads up” contact would protect players, declared The Asbury Park Press, reviving the familiar theory:

It is to be hoped that if football retains its hold upon the American heart that “butting” may be so modified as to preserve the college young man’s skull for future and perhaps more laudable uses. In any event “tackle” with heads up should be substituted for “tackle” with heads down in the football contest. Athletes may get along with broken noses and gradual elimination of front teeth but the skull is valuable and rules should be made to hold it intact if possible.

College rulemakers took another turn at reform in 1912, without addressing head blows. Forward passing was fully sanctioned, legalized from anywhere behind the scrimmage line, for any length of throw, and the playing field was set at regulation 100 yards complemented by 10-yard “end zones” for touchdown receptions. The measures were taken for both player safety and spectator enjoyment, according to the NCAA committee.

Officials declared protective equipment was also advancing. Illinois coach Bob Zuppke produced a new helmet “so designed that the protection comes at all points where a blow might wreak havoc,” newspapers stated.

But one NCAA committeeman questioned safer football, the official pledge since Roosevelt’s intervention. “I am in doubt as to whether the game is safer than it was in years past…” said rules chairman Jonas Babbitt, of Haverford College, “but public opinion seems to hold that it is safer.”

Football’s dark side continued to confront schools, doctors, police, courts and unfortunate families, especially for brain injury and mental disorder linked to the game. Psychosis engulfed a promising young man in eastern Pennsylvania, Raymond Yerger, for injuries believed to have begun in school football, according to newspapers of the period.

The well-liked Yerger, only child of Morris and Sallie Yerger, part of a larger local clan, excelled in athletics and academics at Allentown High. For Thanksgiving in 1910, Yerger led senior football players in organizing a train excursion to their final game at rival Reading. Two hundred AHS faithful paid $1.10 each for train fare, embarking on a holiday extravaganza to culminate that night with a dance back in Allentown.

At Reading the football contest was rough, and Allenville lost in both the score and injury count. Several Allenville players were carried off, including star halfback Ray Yerger, suffering neural effects from a kick to the head. Yerger, diagnosed with “slight concussion” and returned home to Allentown, missed the dance but resurfaced a few nights later to play church basketball. Yerger graduated high school as an honors student, accepted a bookkeeping job, and continued playing sports other than football.

For a few years Yerger remained active in his community and church, and employed, although increasingly subject to mental “spells” and “aberrations,” as family and friends would later recall. A thrown baseball beaned his head around 1913, aggravating symptoms. Yerger grew morose, paranoid, reclusive, avoiding friends for suspicion they made fun of him.

Then an episode turned violent for Yerger at home, terrifying his parents who struggled themselves to make sense of the son’s deterioration. Physically strong, mentally ill, the 22-year-old raged and tossed furniture, threatening to kill his father. Police arrived and placed him in custody. It was holiday season, four years since brain trauma in his last football game for school.

Authorities committed Yerger to Rittersville state hospital for allegedly attempting murder of the father. Yerger reportedly was administered brain surgery to “cure” his disease, and after one year in the facility he sneaked to a bathroom and committed suicide, hanging himself with a towel.

The funeral for young Raymond Yerger was “largely attended” in Allentown, per a report, and he was buried at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church, two weeks before Christmas, 1915. Family and friends would always blame football in the tragedy.

1920s: ‘Punch Drunk’ Questions, An Answer by Martland

During the First World War, U.S. military bases trained soldiers in football, indoctrinating thousands for the game beyond those with previous experience. A single camp might host dozens of football games in a day, and at war’s end soldiers came home eager for the civilian gridiron as players, coaches, trainers, doctors and boosters. “World War I provided the new football [passing attack] with a timely and powerful weapon to drive it into the hearts and minds of the American public,” observed historian John Sayle Watterson in 2000. Automobile proliferation, urbanization and partying also juiced football popularity.

The game permeated America in the 1920s, raising concrete stadiums in many communities and reaching every pocket of society. Teams were established in the remotest regions, enlisting boys for school and midget football, ever younger in age, and men to fill local rosters.

Football’s public health issue followed in kind, spreading along, affecting every level to grassroots. Scandals of college football posed sexier headlines for newspapers, revelations of “professionalism” and academic corruption at major universities, but the game’s everyday problem remained violence and casualties of collisions. Publicized annual death tolls reached 20 again, however invalid the numbers, and rekindled debate.

“High tackling” haunted football for injuries to brain and neck, as since the 1880s, and Harvard leaders proposed to outlaw forward passing once again. More old ideas re-circulated. After the 1925 season a group of eastern coaches demanded anti-butting again be mandated, finally enforced, and football experts took another look at field contact, promising safer colliding.

Coaches and officials pushed “head up” theory for low tackling, again, but there was a new twist, talk of upright hitting with head held aside. At least one newspaper scoffed, The Altoona Tribune, commenting in Pennsylvania:

Tackling below the shoulder would be a very fine thing and very practical if runners could be forced to do their sprinting with head up and chest out. The sad part of it is that runners, like [“Galloping Ghost” Red Grange], run very low. If the Wheaton ice man is to be tossed at all, the tackler has little time or opportunity to pick a suitable spot of the Phantom around which to twine his arms. Officials believe that high tackling should be punishable to a 15-yard penalty.

Shortly thereafter, NCAA rulemakers refrained from acting on high tackling and head-up technique. Yet officials needed to find resolution somehow, because news on football TBI was getting worse, with discussion moving toward brain disease.

American football was awash in incidence of concussion or TBI suffered by players, as demonstrated by daily news, while treatment remained inconsistent and mysterious for lack of known, validated protocol. Medical convention, conservative approach, prescribed “the old clinical maxim that every case of concussion must be treated by a definite period of rest in bed, and the very slow and cautious resumption of active life,” said Dr. Wilfred Trotter, British surgeon of neurology, in 1924.

Dr. Morris Fishbein, editor of Journal of the American Medical Association [JAMA], noted football risk for concussion and emphasized specialized examination for suspected injury. Fishbein, writing for his national newspaper column in 1927, alerted readers to symptoms of broadly defined concussion, “such as dizziness, ringing in the ears, disturbance of vision, headache, drowsiness, pains in the eye, inability to sleep, convulsions or vomiting.”

But many doctors believed no serious injury occurred until loss of consciousness, an opinion parroted by football personnel, despite player cases of severe TBI not involving knockouts. Football’s minimizing or downplaying cerebral disturbance was also conducive for returning players quickly to field contact. Brain trauma was cost of doing business in head-ramming football, so teams stockpiled smelling salts, hired doctors when possible, and young athletes kept lining up, willing combatants.

“No football player is afraid of getting knocked out. It’s too common an experience,” said Centre College star Sully Montgomery. “You can’t go through a season on the gridiron without being knocked senseless a couple of times.” Coaches were run over by speeding bodies, too, like old battering ram Amos Alonzo Stagg, flattened unconscious by a player at the University of Chicago. Kayoed at age 64 by “a swift charging back,” Stagg returned next day to his coaching job, 34 years leading the Maroons, newspapers reported.

Chronic mental disorder, meanwhile, became football’s larger question of the 1920s, the threat of permanent disease from impacts and jars. Boxing attracted attention for medical allegations it caused brain damage, resulting in legal claims and defenses, but football was likewise suspected by people qualified to make the connection. At least one pair of researchers and a segment of NCAA coaches discussed possible neural disease among football players—before Dr. Harrison S. Martland released his milestone evidence of micro-hemorrhaging in brains of deceased boxers.

For years medical personnel had diagnosed disorder like traumatic insanity in football players, and “shell shock” since the World War. Doctors and football families linked suicide and crime to disease of brain trauma, testifying in cases of troubled players. “Punch drunk” or “slug nutty” commonly meant brain disorder in pugilists but the slang showed up elsewhere, around football in particular. A Brooklyn sportswriter described Syracuse linemen as “punch drunk and wavering” against Columbia in November of 1926, and famed columnist Grantland Rice ripped Harvard and Yale, football’s fading flagships, as “old timers who are now punch drunk.”

Drs. Michael Osnato and Vincent Giliberti discussed traumatic encephalitis in their 1927 article on post-concussion damage for Archives of Neurology & Psychiatry. The New York physicians concluded brain disease might manifest in “young men knocked out in football and other games,” continuing: “Our work shows that the structural factors in post-concussion neurosis have not received adequate attention.”

Awareness went mainstream in 1928, when Martland presented his findings of “punch drunk” in boxing and recommended investigation throughout contact sports for brain damage in athletes. The term sprang into popular lexicon, including for grist in comedy setups—“The Three Stooges [in] Punch Drunk!” News rhetoric from Washington relied on punch drunk allusions for discussing lawmakers and congressional bills paralyzed by politics.

Talk buzzed of punch-drunk football players, naturally, and apparently long had. “Notwithstanding that this condition has been known to boxing and football coaches for many years, it is only within the past year that the medical profession has seriously considered the matter,” Dr. James W. Barton wrote for his syndicated newspaper column. Barton, a sport physician, continued:

As students we were taught that a “concussion” was just a shaking up of the brain. That it was as if you took the skull in your hands and gave the contents a “shake.” No injury followed it, because the bony case, the skull, was not injured. … Therefore we never gave concussion much thought, because, although there is a temporary loss of consciousness or a loss of memory, it soon clears away, and there is no apparent damage done.

However, Dr. H.S. Martland some months ago told us that in some of these cases the brain substance can be “bruised” just like other parts of the body, and this bruising results in the breaking of tiny blood vessels and discoloration just as in a bruise of the skin.

What is this knowledge going to mean to us?

It certainly does not mean that boxing, football or other sports should be abandoned, but where an athlete or a player in any kind of sport gets a bump, a blow, or a kick, and finds it results in a loss of memory, however short, he should keep away from that sport for a time, because it is the “repeated knocks,” coming at frequent intervals, that may finally unbalance the mind.

A doctor who refereed NCAA sports warned of “punch drunk” football players, speaking at a coaches gathering in Boston. The referee Dr. Eddie O’Brien said:  “Every one of you high school football coaches should see to it that a doctor is on the field of play, ready to rule whether a lad hurt in a game should be removed or not. If the player is not steady on his legs and normal in his faculties, he should be removed from the game and given medical assistance until he has fully recovered from the blow that caused the trouble.”

The writer Damon Runyon remarked that many football players “wind up a little slug-nutty.” New York sports columnist W.O. McGeehan criticized a coach for returning a “punch drunk” player to action, when “the first thing he did was to toss a forward pass to one of the opponents.” Coach Knute Rockne joked in Collier’s about a “punch drunk” halfback at Notre Dame, unable to find his sideline after being rocked in a game.

Legendary Irish player Jim Crowley, one of the Four Horsemen, spoke seriously in regard to traumatic brain injury. Crowley, head football coach at Michigan State, drew praise for limiting practice hits among his players during the week. “Give that same outfit three or four scrimmages and they’ll be punch drunk when a game comes around,” Crowley said.

Besides Coach Crowley and referee-physician Eddie O’Brien, football insiders produced no fresh thought for protecting the head and reducing TBI, and casualty reports stayed in headlines, like minimally 29 deaths in 1931.

Helmets were brought up again as possible prevention, and so-called technique for headless hitting. Grantland Rice, the household name among sportswriters and a former Vanderbilt football player, teamed with NFL star Benny Friedman to retread and promote “heads up” theory.

Friedman blamed deaths on the players themselves, for “lacking of skill in blocking and tackling.” The Giants’ record-setting quarterback insisted players must finally accept and learn heads-up contact. “I have seen any number of tacklers and ball carriers drive in with their heads down instead of keeping their heads up,” Friedman said. “I have also seen considerable attempted blocking with the head and neck instead of shoulders or body.”

Rice, wordsmith of Four Horsemen gridiron myth, channeled Friedman’s “heads up” tips for millions of readers, writing in his syndicated column: Tackle with your head up… A ball carrier should keep the head up… Use shoulders, hips and body… know the proper way to block.

Yale coach and physician Dr. Marvin “Mal” Stevens endorsed head-up theory and shoulder tackling, but he really banked on helmet tech to finally stop TBI in football. “It is well within the bounds of reason that within a short space of time football equipment can and will be materially improved, and we look forward confidently to the near future when vastly improved headgear will eliminate all serious head injuries,” Stevens co-wrote in his 1933 book, The Control of Football Injuries, with Yale surgeon Dr. Winthrop Morgan Phelps.

Yale’s MD coach would enter his own headgear into the ring of football’s everlasting helmet sweepstakes. Dr. Mal Stevens would design his prototype for the elusive anti-concussion helmet, and, in standard practice for coach inventors, test it on the heads of his college players.

1930s: CTE Evidence, Debate Cast Football as Causal Suspect

New Jersey pathologist Dr. Harrison S. Martland committed to a prime scientific mission in the 1920s, for exposing an occupational hazard, but it wasn’t brain damage in athletes.

The unassuming Martland, coroner of Essex County across the Hudson from New York City, became internationally renowned for identifying radium poisoning in factory workers, hundreds of women. Martland documented and explained the toxic disease, leading to court settlements for the afflicted and industry regulation to save lives. Additionally, Martland was a pioneer of forensic medicine for crime-solving and helped found a school in the discipline at NYU.

Martland could not follow-up his 1928 “punch drunk” findings, leaving the disease state for others to quickly label traumatic encephalopathy, or TE. His method for full brain autopsy would not be replicated in the United States until the next century, unfortunately for head-injury victims like athletes, combat soldiers and battered women, generations to come.

The American sports of boxing and football did not embrace Martland research, ignoring two urgent research needs posed by the results: a) to determine prevalence of traumatic encephalopathy among deceased athletes, and b) to randomly measure cognitive deficits in living athletes through converging neuro-psychiatric assessment tools.

Boxing officials had already questioned existence of punch-drunk syndrome, for decades, and they responded strongly to Martland’s brain slides that spelled instant tempest for the sport. Prizefighting insiders claimed, led by heavyweight champs Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney, that factors besides punches caused undeniable micro-hemorrhaging, later termed as tau deposition.  Insiders blamed child exploitation, poor training, “unscientific technique” and worn-out gloves for punch drunkenness, even gravity, boxers’ falls to ring mats.

Boxing voices said low IQ could cause locomotor ataxia or the shuffling “fighter’s dance,” as could causal sins like alcohol, drugs, philandering—just not the sport itself. Seattle promoter Buddy Bishop declared bankers and bookkeepers faced same risk as boxers. “Dissipations [vice] and not punches bring a boxer to the ‘punch drunk’ stage,” Bishop said. “Bad liquor, later hours, unnatural habits and bad associates will make any person groggy in time. Boxers do not get ‘punch drunk’ from beatings.”

Football sidestepped epicenter of the TE debate and made no move toward studies of players. Many coaches and newsmen were humored, in fact, joking about slug-nutty linemen, conveying nonchalance. “These boys are getting punch-drunk from going up against bigger, tougher teams and so am I,” cracked Bob Zuppke, iconic coach for winning and certifiable failure for designing anti-TBI headgear, at University of Illinois. Washington Post columnist Shirley Povich practiced football-boxing hypocrisy dating to the 1880s, the juggling act of condemning pugilism while extolling the gridiron; he depicted boxers as gladiatorial dupes but football players as swashbuckling , endearing “punch drunks.”

And at Notre Dame, the football team’s ominous supply of ammonia smelling salts for brain-blasted casualties got airy treatment in a wire report:

Irish Trainer Prepared For 1,440 “Knock Outs”

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP)—Eugene Young, Notre Dame trainer, is ready for a big football season.

Taught by experience, he has ordered a gross of boxes of inhalants, or 1,440 “smellers,” just about the quantity he needs to revive young gridders knocked unconscious on the gridiron. In the old days a bucket of water was all that was necessary.

But laughter had limits in the trustless Depression Era, including for the beloved gridiron institution. The game caught fallout over The Carnegie Report, corruption at colleges, and for player fatalities in schools and sandlots.

A special criticism materialized for traumatic brain injury and the question of disease potential in forward-colliding football. Medical experts, news writers and former players led a public discussion, marking the 1930s as another crisis period for the game.

Conventional doctors, those unattached to sports medicine, deemed concussion or TBI of football unhealthy and potentially damaging. Specialists generally opposed rapid return to play for brain casualties in football, and some called for outlawing juvenile participation. A succession of MD newspaper columnists warned of football during the Thirties, such as Drs. William Brady, Morris Fishbein, Louis Berg, Logan Clendening and Irving S. Cutter.

Dr. Brady ripped juvenile play and enabler parents, along with characterizing schools as football churches that made pariahs of boys who resisted indoctrination. And an anti-football administrator typically did nothing for fear of unemployment, alleged Brady. “Now, parents, all together: Down with high school football!” Brady proclaimed in his well-read column.

A key figure of football health debate was Dr. Fishbein, high-profile leader of the American Medical Association as a national columnist and JAMA editor. Fishbein sounded the alert on concussion and potential damage of the collision game. “KEEP YOUR HELMET ON!” he preached to players, introducing a 1933 column for newspapers. Fishbein continued:

There have been far too many cases of concussion of the brain and even fracture of the skull in football to take a chance without adequate head protection. …

Most serious of all injuries are those affecting the brain and the skull. A concussion of the brain means that the brain tissue actually has been bruised, with possible small hemorrhages into the tissue.

The first sign of such injury is loss of memory for recent events. The least important sign is a slight dizziness. But coaches and trainers should not, however, be unimpressed when a player comes out of a sudden impact with another player merely slightly dizzy or dazed.

In a subsequent column, Dr. Fishbein observed: “Because the school or the team takes much of the responsibility for the football player, it should control the kind of medical attention that he receives. The man should not be permitted to consult the first charlatan at hand, but should be directed to proper medical care by those in charge of the team.”

Dr. Berg affirmed the risk of brain disease in football and employed the medical term chronic encephalitis, or CE, for his column:

To many people the term “punch drunk” brings to mind a comic character weaving and boxing with an imaginary enemy the moment somebody sounds a bell behind him.

In truth it is an actual mental disorder—though not known scientifically under that name—brought on by repeated injuries to the blood vessels of the brain and the production of what is called chronic encephalitis.

It is a mistake to assume that this is a condition confined solely to ex-boxers. True the old-time fighter and in particular the preliminary boy, who risked his neck for a few dollars and the plaudits of the gallery, were the commonest exponents of this condition. But today one sees other victims of this disease due to punishment received about the head. Such a type is the football player who partakes in one game or one scrimmage too many. …

The mental symptoms of this disorder produced by minute hemorrhages in the brain, are a distortion of the faculties of attention, concentration and memory.

Dr. Clendening observed: “Punch drunk is an occupational disease. The victims have very marked personality changes… The condition is not confined to boxers, and may occur in football players or to anyone who receives a severe blow on the head.”

Medical literature and groups corroborated the MD columnists regarding brain injury, in communication often citing football.

“The increasing number of cases of trauma of the head [in society] presents a problem of major importance to all branches of the medical profession,” Drs. A.E. Bennett and H.B. Hunt wrote for Archives of Surgery journal in 1933, continuing:

There has been a marked therapeutic advance in the management of the severer types of acute injuries of the head in the past decade, owing to the increasing general knowledge of the diagnosis and treatment of cerebral edema and hemorrhage. Also, the surgical indications are fairly well agreed on by all authorities.

The milder degrees of cerebral trauma, which at the time of the accident are usually called cerebral concussion, representing types of injury to the brain without acutely increased intracranial pressure, with or without fracture of the skull, have not in our opinion received the study they deserve. In the past the results of treatment of this group of patients, in which there is a large number, have been unsatisfactory. A large percentage of the patients have residual complaints, and the question as to whether their complaints were on a psychogenic or an organic basis has not been clear.

Some of the patients show diffuse neurologic signs, mental symptoms, personality changes, palsies of the cranial nerves and bilateral findings, but no focal signs. These findings are not entirely attributable to cerebral edema, but are probably the result of multiple punctate hemorrhages throughout the brain tissue. This condition is a true type of traumatic encephalitis…

“Statistics show an appalling incidence of head trauma,” Drs. N.W. Winkelman and J.L. Eckel wrote for Archives of Neurology & Psychiatry in 1934, continuing:

The subject of the changes in the brain and the symptoms resulting from head injuries is coming to be most important in modern medicine. The courts are deluged with cases in which compensation and redress are sought because of claims of permanent sequelae as the result of alleged injuries to the brain. The subject is further complicated by the fact that neurologists and neurosurgeons are still at odds concerning the question of the organic or functional nature of many of the symptoms. The clinical evidences of brain trauma during the acute period require no lengthy descriptions.

Dr. Edward J. Carroll, Jr., who interviewed ring insiders for in his 1936 observational review of brain-injured boxers titled “Punch Drunk,” reported hearing of the condition among professional football players. Carroll wrote for American Journal of Medical Sciences:

There is a clinical syndrome of frequent occurrence among boxers, to which they refer as “punch-drunk,” “punchy,” “goofy,” “slap happy,” cutting paper dolls,” or “slug nutty.” Other terms might be applied, such as “traumatic dementia” or “traumatic encephalopathy,” but they are not nearly so appropriate and descriptive as the epithet “punch-drunk.” …

Although multiple punctate hemorrhages probably constitute the underlying pathologic change in punch-drunk, extensive degeneration might be explained even without reference to such vascular lesions. It is hardly possible that a blow which jars the brain sufficiently to cause loss of consciousness would not be followed by some tissue reaction, such as hyperemia and edema with effusion into the intracellular spaces, leading  to [metabolic] disturbances of nutrition and thus to impairment of function. An area with anatomic predilection to this type of injury is the midbrain. With a jar of the skull, the midbrain is forced against the sharp edge of the tentorium and bruised, resulting in edema and hyperemia. Following repeated insults to this region a gliosis may begin, and increase with each succeeding trauma. This scarring could result in a narrowing of the aqueduct, predisposing to the formation of an internal hydrocephalus with an increase in the intraventricular pressure and subsequent damage to the cortex.

Another explanation is the jarring of the brain by a blow results in the fracturing of cell processes. The unequal specific gravities of the gray and white matter give to them different degrees of acceleration in response to a force. This inequality of movement might cause a rupture of the neurons at the junction of the two tissues. The technical problems of demonstrating such minute lesions and differentiating them from artefacts leave this occurrence unproven.

Carroll’s study would stand seminal among the American literature on brain disease of sport and other trauma causes. He concluded:

Comment. It is probable that no head blow is taken with impunity, and that each knock-out causes definite and irreparable damage. If such trauma is repeated for a long enough period, it is inevitable that nerve cell insufficiency will develop ultimately, and the individual will become punch-drunk.

The cognizance and investigation of this condition by the medical profession would be a contribution to the neurologic and psychiatric study of traumatic disorders. But a higher end would be the education of the layman to the remote dangers incident to repeated minor head traumas. The occurrence of this type of degenerative brain change must be recognized and publicized rather than disregarded and discounted. It is especially important that athletes entering into competitions in which head injuries are frequent and knock-outs are common should realize that they are exposing themselves not only to immediate injury, but also to remote and more sinister effects.

Specialists of medical groups and journals logically correlated “punch drunk” with head-ramming football, particularly in Pennsylvania, where the state athletic commission screened for stricken boxers. “ ‘Traumatic encephalopathy’ is what the doctor would call it… Should not young men in boxing and football be watched more closely and be forbidden the sport at the first sign of punch-drunkenness?” posed Pittsburgh Medical Record editors.

The Delaware County Medical Society intoned: “Young athletes, whether in boxing or football or whatever sport should be carefully guarded by their trainers against the cranium crunchers that lead to being punch drunk.”

News media, for their part, reported of football TBI and punch-drunk players at all levels of the game in the 1930s.

Hartford Courant sportswriters extended concern for a local Colgate graduate and grid star, Joe Bogdanski, urging him in print to forego professional football. “Joe’s fresh-faced, handsomely built, tawny-skinned with the glow of health, full of the vigor of youth,” they editorialized, “who wants to see him battered and ‘punch drunk’ like some of the best-known pro football players of today? We could mention a few names… but we won’t.” Bogdanski would not play pro football, going on instead to earn a law degree and serve as Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court.

Press accounts alleged that anonymous football players suffered brain disease like many boxers who were landing in courts and mental wards. The writer-artist Copeland C. Burg filed this 1934 analysis for The Chicago American:

CHICAGO, Oct. 6—Punch-drunk football players! Sure—there are lots of them.

Like punch-drunk prizefighters, they are goofy and wander around in the clouds most of the time.

But try and prove it!

We mean get some football coach or big player to talk about it for publication.

Nothing doing. When queried they look at you as though you were very punch-drunk yourself and walk away.

But off the record they will tell you plenty.

They will tell you that _________  _________, at one time one of the biggest backfield stars in America, is so punch drunk he goes around writing bum checks, forgetting important engagements and generally acting so strange and absent-minded that he has ruined his professional career. He’s punch-drunk.

They will tell that __________ _________, formerly a big eastern star, who thrilled the overflowing stands with long runs down the field, is about to be taken to an insane asylum. He’s harmless but more easily cared for at an institution than in the home of a relative. Another punch-drunk victim.

They will tell you strange stories about many great players and the central theme of these yarns is that the players did this and that because they got punch-drunk from blows received in football games.

In modern football, in addition to the bumps and swats received in authorized play, there is considerable old-fashioned, Marquis of Queensbury, punching and slugging as everyone knows.

High up in the stands a spectator can’t see much of these private boxing matches but players, coaches, and officials down on the field know that almost all games are marked by a score or more of good knockout punches, “sneaked” over during line plunges and other plays that give a chance to swat in the dark.

Kicking is another feature contributing to punch-drunk gridiron victims. Nearly every player gets kicked in the head by one of the enemy at least once or twice each season.

The writer talked to a former midwestern star about punch-drunk football players. This player was one of the best ever turned out in America. He admitted freely that many players were punch-drunk and never recovered from the effects of the blows they received on the gridiron. He named several big stars from leading colleges. He also named quite a few former college heroes, now professional football players.

Some of the yarns he told about those players were pretty wild.

In fact the writer was and is firmly convinced the man he was listening to was thoroughly punch-drunk himself.

In Georgia, The Albany Democrat-Herald declared athletes had but a shelf life in football and brain-battering sent many into premature decline, a brutal cause-and-effect scenario “apparent to laymen who have followed the game.” The editorial continued:

Football is a hard game. Those who play hardest at it are likely to be jarred into a condition similar to that which fighters and wrestlers undergo. They become what would be called in the ring “punch drunk.” This mental condition, together with the physical injuries which football players sustain, operate to slow men up as they become veterans. That is the probable explanation of a vast majority of anti-climaxed gridiron biographies.

Critics contended NCAA football should provide “scholarships,” medical coverage and pensions for players, given the profits for colleges and coaches. Scandal struck the University of North Carolina in 1937, on revelations of illicit aid to football players, and The Daily Tar Heel editorialized against injuries and false amateurism, suggesting a professional club might be in order for the campus. Editors co-wrote:

If we have to have football to let some boys work their way through school… abolish the “beating” they get in the game, and give them part of the $30,000 we collect in fees in the form of plain scholarships. The boys would have a much better chance to show themselves good students and worthy “persons as persons,” as the rules say, than they do now when you work them every day for five hours, take them out of school one sixth of the time… turn ’em out in the end punch drunk or cracked up, and make ’em lie about it, to boot. If you want to improve conditions, why don’t you set up a working hour-wage law for football, forbidding more than an hour-and-a-half practice every day. …

One more and probably the most honest suggestion: rent the stadium and the whole outfit to the alumni, let them put out a really first class ball club, professional and paid, under the name, if you will, of the UNC Alumni team. If the boys happen accidentally to want to take advantage of the educational opportunities here, splendid; let ’em register with their preferred Dean.

News commentators kept hammering football as America approached its next great war. At autumn’s outset in 1939, a West Coast columnist remarked: “It is now football season and there will be about 12,000 college men playing this year for—for what? Getting knocked punch drunk to promote a billion-dollar business.”

The unattributed blurb, surfacing on an Opinion page in Van Nuys, perhaps was traceable to Oakland Tribune sports editor Art Cohn. Soon after, with football casualty reports piling up, Cohn panned the game as a “rotten racket in glamour and glorified insanity.” He wrote: “The football business cannot absolve itself… Football cannot even give its victims—or their bereaved—enough insurance to cover doctors’ bills and funeral expenses.”

1940: Plastic Helmet Panacea, Psychiatrists Coin CTE Term

Football officials of the Thirties weren’t easily provoked to comment on issues, by detractors whose complaints were muted amid cultural glorification of the game.  The pro level was unorganized among circuits like the NFL and of marginal concern to the general public. The premier NCAA game was bureaucratic with leaders scattered at member schools, making them tough to corner individually on the macro issues, especially traumatic brain injury.

Many NCAA policymakers doubled as coaches who were publicly adored for winning, flanked by friendly media to protect them and the sport. The football-media complex counterattacked dissidents like Frank Scully, writer and former Columbia player who suffered injury infection and leg amputation. When Scully alleged college football was rife with TBI and cerebral disease, in his exposé published by Liberty magazine, ready sport scribes pounced to excoriate him as a vengeful liar.

The NCAA and coaches association stated nothing formally on the prospect of permanent brain damage for players. But officialdom finally gave ground over broadly defined concussion, conceding it was common problem for football, as conventional medicine had charged since the Victorian Era.

“Concussion is a term which is used to describe a very definite injury,” observed football coach Dr. Mal Stevens, a forerunner in sports medicine, for his book with Yale surgeon Dr. Winthrop Phelps. The co-authors continued:

It is the result of a blow on the head which is sufficiently hard to cause a period of temporary  disturbance [emphasis added] of the proper functioning of the brain. This is usually apparent either from a period of unconsciousness or may be seen in a period during which the player is dazed or unaware of what is going on. He may seem to continue to play normally but will not remember, afterwards, events which have occurred during a given period of time. This period of amnesia may last from a few minutes to a few hours. A mild concussion may often be determined by asking the player questions which require him to be closely in touch with his environment.

Stevens led official endorsement of sideline testing for concussion, a questions-based protocol appearing in the first NCAA medical handbook, 1933. Concussion testing was said to fully protect football players at programs like Yale, where Stevens played and coached. Stevens served one term as president of the American Football Coaches Association and chaired its injury committee for a longer period, overseeing the publication of recommendations for safer play following the 1937 season.

The coaches’ criteria for safe football mostly rehashed 40 years of official promises regarding brutality. The boilerplate talking points, crafted by the late Walter Camp at olden Yale, included: fitness examination for every player, child and adult; high-quality training facilities; protective equipment; constant injury monitoring by doctor and coach; proper training and technique; qualified coaching; and parental vigilance for player health.

But the modern coaches posted genuinely progressive points, too, urging the establishment of paid healthcare and heart screening for all players. Moreover, AFCA recommendation No. 6 addressed negligence of brain injury in football—extraordinary for the time, profound for future context—while specifying a concussion threshold to avoid mortality in contact sport:

During the past seven years the practice has been too prevalent of allowing players to continue playing after a concussion. Again this year this is true. This can be checked at the time of the preseason medical examination by case history questions. A case in point is where no knowledge was had before the player’s death of a boy who suffered a previous concussion from a bicycle accident. Sports demanding personal contact should be eliminated after an individual has suffered one concussion.

Nevertheless, no such health information was incorporated for football rules or other NCAA mandates throughout the Thirties. As in past crises, the committee tinkered with code on “unnecessary roughness,” banning slaps and forearm strikes to the head, among modifications, but nothing further in association policy transpired to prevent injury.

Officials recommended safety measures, they theorized, like touting “side” and “roll” tackles. Players were taught “scientific” falling and tumbling, how to tuck chins and roll on their shoulders. Coaches emphasized, once again, that players must hit with head up and held aside. And football officials promised safer helmets, as usual, promoting revolutionary technologies.

Dr. Stevens saw the moment to unveil his “concussion eliminator” helmet, a pneumatic model presumably improved from the Spalding failure in early century. Stevens, head football coach at New York University in 1939, placed the contraption of rubber and air cushions on his players then reported himself that “experiments have proved it highly successful.”

News writers merely parroted Stevens’ claim the model eliminated all brain trauma down to headaches, in their reports. None confirmed independent validation of the Stevens anti-TBI helmet, much less his qualifications to engineer such a design. But it hardly sold, anyway, because plastic hard-shells were the rage.

Plastic helmets were football’s salvation, certain to stop brain injury in football—or so went the popular assumption without scientific proof.

And John T. Riddell emerged as the chosen coach to reap helmet riches, releasing his plastic models in 1940 with major press coverage. Riddell’s state-of-the-art, hard-shell helmets adorned the team at Northwestern University, where players felt fortunate to wear full protection from head injury, according to the public narrative. Soon Riddell would join production forces with the U.S. military.

Nothing really changed, of course, for field danger that season. Football games and practices continued producing TBI incidents by the thousands, according to news reports available today in electronic databases such as ProQuest and Newspapers.com. The year’s grid star was ramming fullback John Alec Kimbrough, Texas A&M, a spectacular “line ripper” of size and speed who amassed yardage in “his famed butting, diving, plunging and shouldering,” gushed The Christian Science Monitor.

In the same year, without fanfare, a pair of psychiatrists coined the term chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, some 60 years before pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu made it commonplace. In 1940 psychiatrists Karl M. Bowman and Abram Blau discussed chronic traumatic encephalopathy in a boxer’s case for their book chapter “Psychotic States Following Head and Brain Injury in Adults and Children.”

A year later Pearl Harbor was bombed, drawing the United States into World War Two, and the horrific global conflict desensitized Americans for domestic issues like tackle football.

1962: Reselling Anti-Concussion Helmets and Heads Up

When Mal Stevens was a young head coach in college football, he dreamed of becoming rich. “If I had a million dollars,” Stevens would remark, “I’d buy me a professional football team and enjoy myself for the rest of my life by coaching it.”  Recalling this story for a writer in 1960, Dr. Marvin A. “Mal” Stevens didn’t mention whether his personal foil was failure to engineer the golden anti-concussion football helmet. Besides, he still hadn’t given up on his pneumatic model.

Dr. Stevens no longer coached football, having left the game following World War Two and his military service as orthopedic surgeon and medical adviser. In 1951 Stevens accepted the New York governor’s appointment to “help clean up boxing” by establishing a boxing medical board for the State Athletic Commission. Thus Stevens became recognized for leading American boxing’s campaign to demean and deny CTE findings dating back to Martland’s “punch drunk” study.

Stevens, the joint-and-bone specialist, a living legend of sports medicine, still insisted concussion or traumatic brain injury was temporary, posing no risk of permanent damage. Citing his own brain studies of athletes, scoffing at conventional research like so many of his colleagues in U.S. sport, Stevens outright dismissed the sound neurological theory of repetitive, sub-concussive trauma as causation for disease.

“We just haven’t seen any punch-drunk fighters since I have been here, and we’ve been looking for them,” Stevens testified before New York legislators in 1962, adding his regret that “we don’t have boxing in every school and every town in the country.” Neurologist Dr. Abraham Rabiner, a boxing medical colleague of Stevens at the Albany hearings, testified that studies on repetitive blows and chronic encephalopathy amounted to junk science, “nonsense.”

Meanwhile, plastic football helmets had proven no panacea for preventing TBI, the addition of rigid facemasks notwithstanding. Riddell and other makers of hard headgear had succeeded in major sales over the decades since leathers, but danger of head-on brain injury was higher than ever in football—and unnecessarily so, according to Dr. Stevens.

“The hard plastic helmets used today are worse than the ones we used 30 years ago. They ought to be outlawed,” Stevens commented in The Boston Globe. “Players can use their helmets as offensive weapons. The faceguards are worse.” Stevens believed his helmet of air-cushioned rubber had hope yet. “I don’t favor all this stuff that goes in front of the face,” he volunteered. “I think a player would be much better off with a well-fitted, soft and resilient helmet, without a faceguard. There’s been some experimentation with pneumatic helmets [by Stevens, 1939, and Spalding-Camp in 1903], but without much luck.”

Helmet rivals aside, Stevens strongly advocated football and rejected revivalist criticism for juvenile participation, declaring the sport itself was not dangerous, only irresponsible individuals. “If you’re going to play the game, then you must accept the fact that there will be some injuries. But with proper supervision and good common sense, there is less risk in playing football than there is in driving to the game.”

He sounded like Walter Camp, revered “Father of Football” whom Stevens got to know as star Yale halfback in the early Twenties. During this 1962 interview Stevens repeated football’s time-trusted talking points for gullible generations. The Boston student writers who interviewed Stevens, and Globe copy editors who laid out the Q&A page, proclaimed football in a headline to be “Basically a Safe Game.”

They printed verbatim Stevens’ stock football lines about safe blocking and tackling, and headless contact—yet impossible in the forward-colliding sport, particularly for modern helmets.

“Teach the players to run with their heads up; block and tackle with their heads up,” Stevens said. “You can’t theorize on these things.”

Select References

The author stocks additional information in histories, medical literature and thousands of news texts,  among media, for this analysis. Also see ChaneysBlog news lines on Heads Up theory and football brain disease.

A Chicago. (1985, Nov. 18). A Chicago boy hurt. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.2.

A Conservative Medical. (1897, Nov. 20). ). [No headline or byline for stand-alone text in column.] Pittsburgh Daily Post, p.4.

A Few. (1892, Nov. 15). A few “pointers” on rugby foot ball. Iowa City Daily Citizen IA, p.3.

A Fifteen-Year-Old. (1891, Sept. 24). [No headline or byline for stand-alone text in column.] Salina Daily Republican KS, p.3.

A Game. (1892, Jan. 24). A one-sided game. San Francisco Chronicle, p.17.

A Headgear. (1915, Sept. 4). A new headgear. Fort Wayne Daily News IN, p.9.

A Lady. (1889, Nov. 9). A lady Admirer of high kicking. Wilkes-Barre Evening News PA, p.4

A Student. (1885, Nov. 12). A Harvard student fatally injured. Lebanon Daily News PA, p.1

Abramson, J. (1958, Dec. 1). Army beat Navy with muscle, and made a hard job of it. New York Herald Tribune, p.B2.

Action Against. (1926, March 20). Action against forward pass by rule committee. Alton Evening Telegraph IL, p.2.

“Ad” Insane. (1927, Sept. 6). “Ad” Wolgast, noted fighter, is insane. Bend Bulletin OR, p.1.

Al Drowns. (1930, July 7). Al Lassman of gridiron fame drowns. Logansport Pharos-Tribune IN, p.1.

Allentown Run. (1913, Feb. 2). Allentown High inter-class run. Allentown Democrat PA, p.6.

Amherst Plays. (1891, Oct. 8). Amherst plays a tie. New York Sun, p.4.

Archbishop Bans. (1909, Nov. 4). Archbishop bans football. Sedalia Democrat MO, p.7.

Armor For. (1900, Nov. 11). Armor for football. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.45.

Army Cancel. (1909, Nov. 1). Army will cancel its football engagements. Washington Post, p.8.

Army Engineers. (1894, Dec. 1). Army Engineers’ season closed. New York Times, p.7.

As Seen. (1892, Dec. 4). As seen by Mr. Camp. San Francisco Call, p.8.

At Recent Meeting. (1903, April 7). [No headline or byline for stand-alone text in column.] San Francisco Chronicle, p.6.

Athlete Insane. (1914, Dec. 2). Athlete becomes insane: Result of injury received in football game. Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger, p.13.

Athletic Notes. (1888, Oct. 24). Athletic notes. Philadelphia Times, p.7.

Barker, H.W. (1931, Dec. 30). Coaches look for reason in grid fatalities. Miami Daily News-Record OK, p.5.

Barton, J.W. (1929, May 7). Meaning of “punch drunk” is given explanation by physician: Science proves brain injured by hard blows. San Bernardino County Sun CA, p.6.

Baseball Dangerous. (1938, Oct. 4). Baseball and polo dangerous. Bloomington Pantagraph IL, p.10.

Becker, J. (1962, April 3). Frank Gifford returning to Giant football wars. Hazelton Standard-Speaker PA, p.24.

Bennett, A.E., & Hunt, H.B. (1933, March). Traumatic encephalitis: Case reports of so-called cerebral concussion with encephalographic findings. Archives of Surgery, 26 (3), pp.397-406.

Bentley, J. (1939, July 2). I may be wrong. Lincoln Star NE, p.11.

Berg, L. (1936, Nov. 25). Something On Your Mind. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.14.

Berkeley. (1893, Oct. 3). Berkeley. San Francisco Chronicle, p.10.

Blaik, E.H. (1960, Sept. 9). Earl Blaik provides “pointers.” Ogden Standard-Examiner UT, Sports p.1.

Bliven, L.F. (1962, Nov. 27). Knockout ban urged to halt boxing deaths. Syracuse Post-Standard NY, pp.1-6.

Blood Clots. (1928, Nov. 18). Blood clots make fighter punch drunk. Baltimore Sun, p.LT12.

Bob Martin. (1928, April 24). Bob Martin, boxer, losing life’s battle. Mount Carmel Item PA, p.3.

Boston Ban. (1909, Nov. 27). Boston may ban football. Columbus Republic IN, p.1.

Bowman, K.M., & Blau, A. (1940). Psychotic states following head and brain injury in adults and children. In Brock, S., ed., Injuries of the Skull, Brain and Spinal Cord: Neuropsychiatric, Surgical and Medico-Legal Aspects. Williams & Wilkins: Baltimore, MD.

Boxers Union. (1938, Feb. 14). Boxers union studies “punch drunk” victims. Canonsburg Daily Notes PA, p.2.

Boxing Weight. (1938, June 24). Boxing weight limits lifted. Baltimore Sun, p.17.

Boy Bandit. (1930, June 22). Boy bandit gets five years for $10 store robbery. Anniston Star AL, p.6.

Boyle, R. (1983, April 11). Too many punches, too little concern. Sports Illustrated, pp.44-67.

Brady, D. (2004). A Preliminary Investigation of Active and Retired NFL Players’ Knowledge of Concussions. Union Institute and University: Cincinnati, OH.

Brady, W. (1929, Feb. 1). Personal health service. Hartford Courant CT, p.10.

Brady, W. (1929, July 7). Sunday health talks. Atlanta Constitution, p. E20.

Brady, W. (1929, Oct. 25). Personal health service. Hartford Courant CT, p.10.

Brady, W. (1930, Nov. 18). Health talks. Atlanta Constitution, p.6.

Brady, W. (1931, Dec. 31). Health talks. Atlanta Constitution, p.6.

Brady, W. (1952, Nov. 27). Child football games cause injury, strain. Los Angeles Times, p.B8.

Brady, W. (1961, July 9). Dr. Brady’s health service. Anderson Herald IN, p.4.

Brain Specialist. (1931, Jan. 8). Brain specialist on strange case. Sedalia Democrat MO, p.4.

Brewer, A. (1945, Sept. 6). What’s Brewin’: Tackling. Naugatuk Daily News CT, p.6.

Brickley, C. (1921, Oct. 27). Brickley, in second article on rudiments of football, treats the art of tackling. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p.36.

Bugle Calling. (1914, Oct. 18). Bugle calling horses to post will sound at Latonia to-day. Cincinnati Enquirer, p.41.

Burg, C.C. (1934, Oct. 7). Many great football players finish their careers punch drunk. Harrisburg Sunday Courier PA, p.3.

Burnett, A. (1932, Oct. 30). Dr. Marvin A. (Mal) Stevens, head coach of the Yale University football team and president of the American Football Coaches Association. Washington Post, p.MS3.

Busch’s Life. (1888, April 25). Inquiry to save Busch’s life. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.7.

Cal Poly. (1960, Sept. 23). Cal Poly slates new examinations after grid death. Reno Evening Gazette NV, p.6.

California Penn. (1924, Dec. 25). California and Penn teams use similar tactics. Oakland Tribune, p.24.

Camp, W. (1890). Foot-Ball Rules and Referee’s Book. American Intercollegiate Association. A.G. Spalding & Brothers: New York.

Camp, W. (1891, Oct. 10). The best way to win. Indianapolis News, p.11.

Camp, W. (1891, Nov. 29). On defensive play. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.12.

Camp, W. (1919, Oct. 18). Walter Camp’s inside football. Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, p.12

Camp, W., & DeLand, L.F. (1896). Foot Ball. Houghton,Mifflin and Company: Boston, New York.

Captain Out. (1893, Nov. 28). Harvard’s captain is out. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.8.

Carlson, C. (1961, Sept. 20). Doctor has scorn for bans on sports. Kansas City Times, p.9.

Carr, C.M. (1932, Nov. 15). Varsity squad put through fast session getting ready for Duke. Chapel Hill Daily Tar Heel NC, p.3.

Carroll, E.J. (1936). Punch drunk. American Journal of Medical Sciences, 191 (5), pp.706-712.

Chaney, M. (2009). Spiral of Denial: Muscle Doping in American Football. Four Walls Publishing: Warrensburg MO.

Changing Rules. (1925, Dec. 31). Changing grid rules. Altoona Tribune PA, p.8.

Chasing Pigskin. (1901, Sept. 30). Chasing the pigskin. Wilkes-Barre Evening News PA, p.5.

Chicago Medical. (1882, May 2). Chicago Medical Society. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.3.

City Football. (1909, Dec. 9). City school football dead. New York Sun, p.1.

Clendening, L. (1931, May 31). ‘Punch drunk’ state caused by head injury. Kingsport Times IN, p.7.

Clendening, L. (1936, June 9). Diet and health. Mason City Globe-Gazette IA., p.12.

Coach Heisman. (1903, Dec. 23). Coach Heisman asks changes. Atlanta Constitution, p.3.

Coaches Hint. (1961, Oct. 25). Coaches hint factor on grid deaths. Indiana Evening Gazette IN, p.22.

Coaches Propose. (1961, Oct. 13). Coaches propose safety study to reduce football fatalities. New York Times, p.46.

Coaches Safer. (1962, Jan. 11). Coaches’ unit outlines program at making football safer. Appleton Post-Crescent WI, p.C1.

Coaches See. (1935, Nov. 13). Coaches see lack of supervision as cause of deaths. Reading Times PA, p.13.

Cohn, A. (1936, Dec. 12). Cohn-ning tower. Oakland Tribune, p.9.

Cohn, A. (1939, Nov. 4). And that’s what they call ‘courage.’ Oakland Tribune, p.10.

College Boys. (1885, Nov. 2). College boys playing football. Wilkes-Barre Times PA, p.1.

College Foot-Ball. (1888, Dec. 1). College foot-ball. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.2.

Collingdale Leather. (1960, Jan. 15). Collingdale may shift to leather. Delaware Daily Times PA, p.16.

Comment Sports. (1909, Dec. 27). Comment on sports: Reform in football. New York Tribune, p.5.

Condones Habits. (1903, Feb. 12). Condones bad habits. Oakland Tribune, p.3.

Connett, W.C. (1906, Aug. 16). The roving forward; quarterback kick. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p.14.

Crawford, F.W. (1944, Oct. 20). Cornhuskers and Jayhawkers in renewal of feud. Muscatine Journal and News Tribune IA, p.8.

Cunningham, B. (1939, December). Football not for my son. Cosmopolitan.

Currie, G. (1928, Oct. 14). Yale upsets Georgia while N.Y.U. and Columbia win. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.33.

Currie, G. (1928, Nov. 5). Would an Oberlander have brought victory to Dartmouth? Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.36.

Currie, G. (1932, Jan. 3). Year to see football in hands of men bent on reforming it. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.43.

Cutter, I.S. (1936, Sept. 24). Today’s health talk. Washington Post, p.XII.

Daley, A. (1960, Nov. 17). Sports of The Times. Warner County Observer PA, p.17.

Daley, G. (1936, Sept. 6). Sport talk. New York Herald Tribune, p.B2.

Daly, C.D. (1920, Oct. 10). Good team work depends on correct position play. Boston Daily Globe, p.F6.

Davis, P.H. (1911). Football: The American Intercollegiate Game. Charles Scribner’s Sons: New York.

Days Numbered. (1909, Nov. 16). Days of flying tackle are numbered; cause of many fatalities. New Castle Herald PA, p.5.

Deals Blow. (1905, Nov. 7). Deals a blow to football: Jury that investigates the death of young player says game is demoralizing. San Francisco Call, p.7.

Death Tackler. (1897, Oct. 27). Death was the tackler. New York World, p.5.

Decker Brothers. (1940, Oct. 1). Sporting tops war interest, guns increase. Mason City Globe-Gazette, p.42.

Definition Sought. (1937, Feb. 28). Definition sought for ‘punch drunk’ in court battle. Atlanta Constitution, p.2B.

Detroit Teaches. (1933, Oct. 4). Detroit teaches players to tackle high. Tyrone Daily Herald PA, p.7.

Dietzel, P.F. (1962, Sept. 7). Good, solid tackles give many thrills. Stroudsburg Pocono Record PA, p.13.

Dillingham, J.B. (1937, Sept. 30). Frank Scully knows bed-pans but doesn’t know football players. Columbia Daily Spectator NY, p.2.

Dispute Game. (1885, Nov. 1). Dispute over a foot-ball game. Philadelphia Times, p.2.

Doctor Advocates. (1938, March 2). Doctor advocates abolition of boxing as college sport. Corsicana Daily Sun TX, p.8.

Doctor Favors. (1961, Nov. 4). Doctor favors dropping face masks from football helmets. Appleton Post-Crescent WI, p.8.

Doctors Condemn. (1962, Oct. 3). Doctors condemn helmet blocks. Odessa American TX, p.36.

Doctors Sport. (1960, Dec. 12). Doctors on sport. Time, 76 (24), pp.72,75.

Dr. Martland. (1954, May 2). Dr. Martland dies; radium pathologist. New York Herald Tribune, p.66.

Dr. Stevens. (1932, Oct. 30). Dr. Marvin A. (Mal) Stevens, head coach of the Yale University football team. Washington Post, p.MS3.

Eastern Officials. (1925, Dec. 28). Eastern football officials to seek revision of rules. Springfield Leader MO, p.6.

Eckersall, W. (1922, Sept. 12). Tackling art needs coaches’ attention. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.22.

Edgren, R. (1919, June 13). Champion weighs 252 pounds after grueling workout. St. Louis Post-Dispatch MO, p.21.

Effie’s Effusions. (1928, Jan. 24). Effie’s effusions. Wilkes-Barre Evening News PA, p.19.

Erichsen, J.E. (1866). Injuries of the Nervous System: On Railway and Other Injuries of the Nervous System. In Brand, R.A., ed. (2007, May) Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, 458, pp.47-51.

Evans, R.W. (1994). The postconcussion syndrome: 130 years of controversy. Seminars in Neurology, 14, pp.32-39.

Excerpts Letters. (1937, Sept. 12). Excerpts from our letters. Washington Post, p.B9.

Explaining Failure. (1937, Oct. 17). Explaining failure of boxers’ memories. Baltimore Sun, p.SH10.

Fair Harvard. (1888, Nov. 18). Fair Harvard is humbled. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.2.

Fauver, E., Thorndike, A., & Raycroft, J.E. (1933, July). National Collegiate Athletic Association Medical Handbook for Schools and Colleges. Princeton University Press: Princeton, NJ.

Fight Game. (1927, July 24). Fight game beneficial to boxers, asserts Brombe. Hartford Courant CT, p.5B.

Fighters Not. (1932, June 5). Fighters are not alone in being ‘punch drunk.’ Hartford Courant CT, p.C5.

Fighting For. (1928, May 17). Fighting for his life. Roseburg News-Review OR, p.10.

First Death. (1924, Sept. 12). First football death recorded. Bismarck Tribune ND, p.8.

Fishbein, M. (1927, Aug. 29). Your health. Reading Times PA, p.6.

Fishbein, M. (1928, Oct. 25). Brain often injured by punches in prize ring. Franklin News-Herald PA, p.9.

Fishbein, M. (1933, Oct. 10). Six rules for safety—medical authorities on athletics set down requirements to guard against injuries in fall sports. Bradford Evening Daily Record PA, p.2.

Fishbein, M. (1933, Oct. 19). Daily hints on health. Manitowac Herald-Times WI, p.5.

Fishbein, M. (1934, Sept. 23). Guard gridsters against injuries from bruises. Brownsville Herald TX, p.4.

Fishbein, M. (1939, Sept. 21). Coaches should watch for concussion, tape ankles, knees of grid players. Manitowoc Herald-Times WI, p.4.

Fishbein, M. (1940, Feb. 21). Internal effect of head blow is a puzzle to medical profession. Wilkes-Barre Evening News PA, p.10.

Fodder Box. (1932, Nov. 27). Fodder for sports from the press box. Bluefield Daily Telegraph WV, p.9.

Foot Ball. (1886, Dec. 5). Foot ball. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.1.

Foot Ball. (1887, Nov. 13). Foot-ball. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.14.

Foot Ball. (1888, Dec. 2). Foot-ball. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.2.

Foot Ball. (1890, Dec. 3). Foot-ball vs. prize-fighting. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p.10.

Foot Ball. (1895, Sept. 26). Foot ball and prize fighting, Greenville Record-Argus PA, p.4.

Foot Ball. (1901, Nov. 14). Foot-ball. Philadelphia Times, p.12.

Foot-Ball’s Victim. (1896, Nov. 19). Foot-ball’s victim. Lawrence Weekly World KS, p.5.

Football. (1902, Oct. 30). Football. Vancouver Daily World, British Columbia, Canada.

Football. (1910, Sept. 17). Football. Coshocton Daily Age OH, p.7.

Football Armor. (1897, Oct. 3). Football armor: Changes in the devices for players this year. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.38.

Football Armor. (1899, Dec. 21). Football armor. Marion Crittenden Press KY, p.6.

Football Changed. (1888, May 7). Football rules changed. New York Times, p.1.

Football Crippler. (1939, Nov. 9). Football is a crippler. Whitewright Sun TX, p.4.

Football Dangerous. (1908, Oct. 28). Football dangerous, as record shows. Salt Lake Tribune, p.11.

Football Death. (1895, Dec. 5). Football causes death. Belle Plaine News KS, p.2.

Football Factor. (1911, Jan. 31). Football factor for evil. Syracuse Post-Standard NY, p.10.

Football Fight. (1905, Feb. 2). Football is a fight, says President Eliot. New York Times, p.6.

Football Games. (1892, March 6). Football games: Plenty of blood spilled at Central Park. San Francisco Chronicle, p.17.

Football Headgear. (1903, Aug. 17). Foot ball players head gear. Mount Carmel Daily News PA, p.1.

Football Hurt. (1901, Sept. 28). Football player hurt at Stanford. San Francisco Chronicle, p.4.

Football Injuries. (1894, May 8). Football injuries. New York Tribune, p.4.

Football Injury. (1915, Dec. 6). Football injury may have been responsible: Raymond E. Yerger, former high school athlete, a suicide in state hospital. Allentown Democrat PA, p.5.

Football Killed. (1914, Oct. 13). Football player killed. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.14.

Football List. (1926, Dec. 9). Football list deaths smaller. Whitewright Sun TX, p.6.

Football Menace. (1910, Jan. 12). Football menace is diving tackle, says expert. Monongahela Daily Republican PA, p.3.

Football Notes. (1893, Nov. 8). Football notes. Topeka Daily Capital KS, p.4.

Football Rules. (1912, Sept. 23). Football rules for 1912. Greensboro Daily News NC, p.2.

Football Squad. (1913, Oct. 9). Football squad has first workout of season. Winston-Salem Journal NC, p.7.

For Safer. (1910, Jan. 26). For safer football. Washington Herald DC, p.8.

Forced Quit. (1909, Nov. 18). Forced to quit school. Newport Miner WA, p.8.

Fordham Star. (1931, Dec. 3). Fordham star dies of hurts and sets sports-loving fans wondering of aftermath. Danville Bee VA, p.8.

Former Star. (1928, Nov. 30). Former Yale star beats up his wife. Helena Independent Record MT, p.1.

Fraley, O. (1961, Oct. 30). Manufacturer defends plastic grid helmet. Redlands Daily Facts CA, p.9.

Frank, N. (1934, Dec. 29). It just occurred to me. Harrisburg Telegraph PA, p.8.

Frank Scully. (1937, Sept. 30). Frank Scully gives inside dope. Wilkes-Barre Evening News PA, p.28.

Friedman Safety. (1934, April 27). Friedman for safety. New York Times, p.28.

Geary, M.J. (1892, Dec. 4). Seen by a novice. San Francisco Call, p.8.

Gemmell, R. (1939, March 31). Sport sparks. Oregon Statesman, p.17.

Georgia Tech. (1929, Jan. 2). Georgia Tech wins national title by defeating California: Was Riegels punch-drunk when he made that weird run? Portsmouth Daily Times OH, p.12.

Getty, F. (1928, April 14). Sportsmatter. Klamath News OR, p.2.

Goals Touchdowns. (1890, Nov. 2). Goals and touchdowns. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.8.

Gold Triumphs. (1911, Dec. 1). Gold and black triumphs over Sewanee purple. Nashville Tennessean and Nashville American, p.1.

Goss Coach. (1904, Oct. 10). Goss to coach. Minneapolis Journal, p.14.

Got Craze. (1914, Dec. 9). Got murder craze from gridiron kick. Greenwood Daily Journal SC, p.5.

Gould, A. (1930, Jan. 28). Sports slants. Miami Daily News-Record OK, p.5.

Government Study. (1936, April 27). Government to make study of punch drunks [London]. Big Spring Daily Herald TX, p.8

Government Waste. (1936, May 26). Government waste held ‘punch-drunk.’ Ogden Standard-Examiner UT, p.10.

Graves, E. (1921, Oct. 2). The line’s the thing, says Maj. Graves. Boston Daily Globe, p.E5.

Grid News. (1933, Oct. 17). Grid news and views from B.H.S. Blytheville Courier News AR, p.6.

Grid Elbow. (1962, Jan. 8). Grid elbow big weapon. Brandon Sun, Manitoba, Canada, p.9.

Gridder Recovering. (1919, Oct. 2). Gridder recovering. Pittsburgh Daily Post, p.14.

Gridder Saved. (1942, April 21). Gridder saved by plastic helmet. New Philadelphia Daily Times OH, p.5.

Gridiron Gossip. (1906, Sept. 30). Gridiron gossip. Washington Post, p.3.

Griffen, C.R. (1933, Jan. 31). Daily cross-word puzzle. New York Herald Tribune, p.31.

Grist Mill. (1934, Dec. 19). Grist From The sports mill. Hartford Courant CT, p.16.

Guardian For. (1917, April 3). Guardian for Wolgast. Wichita Beacon KS, p.7.

Guidry, B. (1960, Aug. 7). Racing helmets on Hobbs gridiron? Hobbs Daily News-Sun NM, p.7.

Hailey, A. (1939, Sept. 10). Boxing leaders plan knockout blows against fight game’s evils. Washington Post, p.B7.

Hailey, F. (1934, Dec. 28). Challenge to reduce football casualties issued by professor. Salem Daily Capital Journal OR, p.9.

Hand, J. (1955, June 10). New York physician calls other sports tougher than boxing. Escanaba Daily Press MI, p.12.

Harness Football. (1900, Nov. 12). Harness in football, Fort Wayne Daily News IN, p.8.

Harrison, E.A. (2014, May). The first concussion crisis: Head injury and evidence in early American football. American Journal of Public Health, 104 (5), pp.822-33.

Harry Forbes. (Nov. 4, 1919). Harry Forbes says healer will help him. Bloomington Pantagraph IL, p.15.

Harvard Expected. (1928, Nov. 24). Harvard expected to take important game in New England today. Coshocton Tribune OH, p.6.

Harvard Jolted. (1911, Nov. 12). Harvard is jolted by the Carlisle Indians. Pittsburgh Daily Post, p.18.

Harvard Student. (1885, Nov. 12). A Harvard student fatally injured. Lebanon Daily News PA, p.1.

Harvard Students. (1895, Feb. 21). Harvard students angry. New York World, p.6.

Harvard’s Team. (1892, Nov. 20). Harvard’s football team beaten six to nothing. New York Herald, p.1.

Head Blocking. (1962, Oct. 24). Head blocking under scrutiny. Beckley Post-Herald WV, p.2.

Head-On Collision. (1933, Sept. 28). Head-on collision results in grid death in East. Fresno Bee Republican CA, p.30.

Headgear Report. (1962, May 22). Headgear report is made public. Gettysburg Times PA, p.5.

Health Hygiene. (1936, Nov. 9). Health and hygiene: Football and head injuries. Sault Marie Evening News MI, p.4.

Henry, B. (1924, Nov. 2). California Bears rout Trojans in sensational battle. Los Angeles Times, p.A1.

Herald Class. (1935, Aug. 11). Herald Tribune football class to hear Little explain defense: Columbia coach to lecture on unique style of line play, blocking, tackling. New York Herald Tribune, p.B5.

Hilton, M. (1958, Nov. 4). Protest jumping on University Trojan coach [LTE]. Waco News-Herald TX, p.4.

Hitting Line. (1923, Sept. 13). Football lessons, hitting the line. Decatur Herald IL, p.16.

Hollingworth, F. (1963, April 11). Sports merry-go-round: Doctors argue on boxing! Long Beach Independent CA, p.39.

Homicidal From. (1914, Dec. 6). Homicidal from football. Washington Post, p.19.

How Played. (1887, Nov. 25). How it is played. Fitchburg Sentinel MA, p.4.

How Won. (1891, Nov. 27). How the game was won. New York Times, p.2.

Hughes, E. (1931, Oct. 18). Those ‘punch drunk’ scrimmagers. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.31.

Hughes, E. (1936, March 27). Punch-drunks. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.28.

Hughes, E. (1937, April 12). “On account of repeated beatings.” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.18.

Humble Cornell. (1899, Oct. 15). Humble Cornell’s pride. Chicago Daily Tribune.

Hurt Memory. (1900, Nov. 13). Hurt at football, lost memory. Pittsburgh Daily Post, p.6.

Husband Slays. (1933, Sept. 25). Husband slays wife. Kingsport Times TN, p.3.

Hyman, H.T. (1961, Jan. 3). The doctor talks about: Head injury. Troy Record NY, p.6.

Indiana Drill. (1910, June 9). Indiana drill shows new football rough. Indianapolis News, p.12.

Indiana News. (1917, Jan. 31). Indiana news in brief. Indianapolis News, p.15.

Indians Good. (1895, Nov. 29). Indians play good football. New York Times, p.6.

Indians Practice. (1899, Dec. 13). Indians practice on Folsom Street field. San Francisco Chronicle, p.14.

Ingram, B. (1935, Oct. 30). As I was saying. El Paso Herald-Post TX.

Injured Gridder. (1937, Oct. 26). Injured gridder to play. Fresno Bee CA, p.10.

Inquiry Save. (1888, April 25). Inquiry to save Busch’s life. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.7.

Inter Collegiate. (1887, March 27). Inter-college foot-ball. Philadelphia Times, p.2.

Intercollegiate Foot-Ball. (1889, March 21). Intercollegiate foot-ball. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.2.

Interest Football. (1889, Nov. 30). Interest in foot-ball. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.4.

Investigation Proves. (1909, Dec. 26). Investigation proves injuries in football have been exaggerated. Chicago Inter Ocean.

Iola Theatre. (1934, Aug. 2). The Three Stooges “Punch Drunk” [advertisement]. Iola Register KS, p.8.

Irish Prepared. (1933, Sept. 1). Irish trainer prepared for 1,440 “knock outs.” Rushville Republican IN, p.3.

Is Football? (1894, Dec. 13). Is football too brutal to play? Winnipeg Tribune, Manitoba, Canada, p.2.

It Was. (1889, Nov. 29). It was a hard fought contest. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.2.

It’s Dementia. (1938, Jan. 16). It’s ‘dementia pugilistica’ and not ‘punch drunk.’ New York Times, p.67.

Jab, J. (1911, April 14). Fistic foibles. Pittsburgh Press, p.27.

JAMA. (1906, Jan. 13). Surgical aspects of football [editorial]. Journal of the American Medical Association, 46 (2), pp.122-23.

Johnston, A. (1887, October). The American game of football. The Century Illustrated Magazine Monthly Magazine, 34 (6).

Keane, A.W. (1931, July 11). Calling ’em right. Hartford Courant CT, p.12.

Keane, A.W. (1934, Jan. 26). Calling ’em right. Hartford Courant CT, p.16.

Keane, A.W. (1938, June 1). Calling ’em right. Hartford Courant CT, p.11.

Kegg, J.S. (1962, Feb. 6). Tapping the sports Kegg. Cumberland Evening Times MD, p.10.

Kemble, R.P. (1937, Feb. 10). Odds and ends. Mount Carmel Item PA, p.2.

Kicking Foot Ball. (1892, Oct. 24). Kicking the foot ball. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.8.

Kiernan, J. (1933, Feb. 12). Sport of the times. New York Times, p.54.

Kilbane, J. (1939, July 16). “Let’s make them right.” Los Angeles Times, p.13.

Knute Knows. (1930, Dec. 23). Knute knows best. Hamilton Journal News OH, p.6.

Laid Rest. (1915, Dec. 10). Laid to rest. Allentown Leader PA, p.6.

Lake Forest. (1899, Oct. 22). Lake Forest player is injured. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.22.

Latest Football. (1940, Oct. 16). Latest in football fashion [photo cutline]. Chapel Hill Daily Tar Heel NC, p.3.

Laugh At. (1894, Feb. 10). Laugh at the anti-football bill. New York World, p.6.

Lee, B. (1945, Dec. 1). Will malice toward none. Hartford Courant CT, p.9.

Lewis, G.M. (1965). The American Intercollegiate Football Spectacle, 1869-1917. University of Maryland: College Park.

Like Knights. (1937, Oct. 25). Like knights of old. Mount Carmel Item PA, p.5.

Linthicum, J.A. (1932, Aug. 7). Ring and rasslin’ racket. Baltimore Sun, p.S5.

Little Mike. (1909, Nov. 7). Little Mike Walker is one of the smallest coaches, and likewise one of the quietest. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p.2S.

Local Football. (1920, Nov. 20). Local football team will have hard week. Richmond Times-Dispatch, p.3.

Local Wise. (1895, Oct. 3). Local and other-wise. Fayette County Leader IA, p.8.

Locals Walk. (1917, Sept. 30). Locals walk away from Tuscola High, 37 to 13. Decatur Herald IL, p.8

Lockwood, P.E. (1926, Nov. 26). Hanson’s field day is Lions’ doomsday. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.26.

Lost Points. (1892, Oct. 30). Lost by two points. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.6.

Magazines. (1885, Aug. 13). Magazines. Washington National Tribune DC, p.8.

Mal Stevens. (1951, Nov. 17). Mal Stevens to head N.Y. boxing board. Decatur Herald IL, p.4.

Mal Stevens. (1962, Sept. 9). Mal Stevens sees night football boosting injuries: It’s basically a safe game. Boston Globe, p.A44.

Many Changes. (1910, Jan. 9). Many changes suggested in football rules by former college players. Pittsburgh Daily Post, p.17.

Maroons Arrive. (1898, Oct. 31). Maroons arrive today. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.4.

Marsh, I.T. (1952, Nov. 21). College viewpoint. New York Herald Tribune, p.24.

Martland, H.S. (1928, Oct. 13). Punch drunk. Journal of the American Medical Association, 91 (15), pp.1103-07.

Martland Retires. (1953, Nov. 26). ‘Medical Sherlock Holmes’: Martland, radiation expert, retires as Essex examiner. New York Herald Tribune, p.16.

McCormack, P. (1960, Aug. 21). Medics decry athletics. Los Angeles Times, p.K10.

McGeehan, W.O. (1929, Jan. 29). The strenuous game. New York Herald Tribune, p.25.

McGeehan, W.O. (1929, Nov. 26). And so it goes. New York Herald Tribune, p.38.

McGeehan, W.O. (1932, Aug. 23). Down the line. New York Herald Tribune, p.19.

McGill, R. (1932, Feb. 16). Break of the day! Atlanta Constitution, p.10.

McIntyre, G.R. (1932, Nov. 10). Chaff’n chatterR. Appleton Post-Crescent WI, p.13.

Medical Notes. (1887, April 7). Medical notes. Abilene Weekly Reflector KS, p.6.

Memorable Day. (1910, June 22). Memorable day for Allentown H.S. graduates. Allentown Democrat PA, pp.1-7.

Menke, F.C. (1926, Oct. 26). Will to win gets outstanding call on football field. Charleston Gazette WV, p.8.

Mental Test. (1939, Dec. 28). Boxing solon suspends 81 fighters: Mental test may bar punch drunk fighters. Wilkes-Barre Evening News PA, p.18.

Mentally Deranged. (1914, Dec. 1). Mentally deranged result of injury. Allentown Leader PA, p.1.

Metzger, S. (1925, Oct. 5). Football secrets. Boston Daily Globe, p.6.

Metzger, S. (1925, Oct. 31). Football secrets. Boston Daily Globe, p.12.

Midshipmen Wilson. (1909, Nov. 1). Midshipmen Wilson dying from football injuries. Atlanta Constitution, p.6.

Might Bowl. (1960, Nov. 8). Might have Bowl here. Lubbock Avalanche-Journal TX, p.27.

Millard, H. (1935, Oct. 9). Bait and bugs. Decatur Daily Review IL, p.20.

Mitten Pastime. (1924, Nov. 4). Mitten pastime in tangled mess. Lincoln Star NE, p.10.

Montenigro, P.H., Corp, D.T., Stein, T.D., Cantu, R.C., & Stern, R.A. (2015, March). Chronic traumatic encephalopathy: Historical origins and current perspective. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 11, pp.309-30.

Mooney, J. (1959, May 27). Sports mirror. Salt Lake Tribune, p.13.

Morrison, T. (1961, Jan. 8). On the sidelines. Idaho State Journal, p.11.

Mr. Walter Camp. (1890, Nov. 29). [No headline or byline for stand-alone text in column.] Winnipeg Tribune, Manitoba, Canada, p.4.

Mulling Athletics. (1937, Nov. 18). Mulling over athletics. Chapel Hill Daily Tar Heel NC, p.2.

Murray, T. (1958, Oct. 22). Gulf Coast sports. La Marque Times TX, p.8.

New Armor. (1903, Aug. 10). New football armor. York Daily PA, p.4.

New Blocking. (1958, Sept. 14). New blocking rule may result in raft of shoulder injuries. Terre Haute Tribune IN, p.34.

New Football. (1903, Aug. 8). New football devices. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p.29.

New Gridiron. (1912, Feb. 18). New gridiron game is just Yale’s kind. Anaconda Standard MT, p.23.

New Helmet. (1943, July 2). New helmet is much better. Cumberland News MD, p.4.

New Rules. (1887, Oct. 29). New foot-ball rules. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p.8.

New Rules. (1910, April 9). New football rules make safer game. Winfield Daily Press KS, p.7.

News Day. (1939, Sept. 28). News of the day. Van Nuys News CA, p.6.

Nichols, E.H., & Smith, H.B. (1906, Jan. 4). The physical aspect of American football. Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, 154 (1), pp.1-8.

No Mollycoddles. (1907, Feb. 24). No mollycoddles, says Roosevelt. New York Times, p.1.

No More. (1883, Nov. 23). No more football at Harvard. New York Times, p.1.

Notes From. (1939, Nov. 7). Notes from a football pressbox. Logansport Pharos-Tribune IN, p.2.

O’Brien, J. (1938, Dec. 1). Canonsburg cannonades. Canonsburg Daily Notes PA, p.8.

Of Interest. (1893, Aug. 10). Of interest to athletes. Leavenworth Weekly Times KS, p.5.

Office Wife. (1938, Dec. 18). ‘Office wife’ was punch drunk when she slew. Atlanta Constitution, p.16A.

Official Doctor. (1929, Feb. 8). Official urges doctor on every gridiron. New York Times, p.25.

Old Harvard. (1898, Jan. 27). Old Harvard’s place. Boston Daily Globe, p.1.

Old Nassau. (1893, Nov. 5). Old Nassau won. New York World, p.12.

Old No. 39. (1940, Nov. 20). Old No. 39 has one more official ‘run’ to make. Christian Science Monitor, p.15.

O’Hara, B. (1908, Jan. 12). Lightweights in limelight now. Detroit Free Press, p.15.

On Field. (1890, Nov. 16). On the football field. New York Tribune, p.16.

On Gridiron. (1894, Nov. 11). On the gridiron. Salt Lake Herald UT, p.8.

On Screen. (1932, July 18). On the screen. New York Herald Tribune, p.8.

Oriard, M. (1993). Reading Football: How the Popular Press Created an American Spectacle. University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, NC.

Oriard, M. (2001). King Football: Sport & Spectacle in the Golden Age of Radio & Newsreels, Movies & Magazines, The Weekly & The Daily Press. University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, NC.

Osnato, M. (1929, May 14-17). The Role of Trauma in Various Neuropsychiatric Conditions. Presentation for American Psychiatric Association, Atlanta, GA.

Osnato, M., & Giliberti, V. (1927, March). Postconcussion neurosis-traumatic encephalitis: A conception of postconcussion phenomena. Archives and Neurology & Psychiatry, 18 (2), pp.181-214.

Osteopath Tells. (1915, Jan. 30). Osteopath tells of clouded minds cleared by relieving nerve pressure. Fort Scott Daily Monitor KS, p.8.

Paragraphic Punches. (1897, Nov. 24). Paragraphic punches. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.6.

Paragraphs Films. (1936, May 31). Paragraphs on Brooklyn films. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.41.

Parrot, H.E. (1931, Dec. 9). Poor conditioning cause of epidemic of football injuries, says trainer. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.25.

Parson-Boxer. (1929, Feb. 7). Parson-Boxer wanted to throw wife out of window: Punch-drunk. Portsmouth Daily Times OH, p.16.

Payne, C.H. (1893, Jan. 11). The morals of intercollegiate games. Raleigh Christian Advocate NC, p.1.

Pearce, J.M.S. (2008, February). Observations on concussion: A review. European Neurology, 59 (3-4), pp.113-119.

Peck, T. (1936, Oct. 31). Michigan will meet Illinois. Escanaba Daily Press MI, p.16.

Pennsylvania Favors. (1893, Dec. 10). Pennsylvania favors a change. New York World, p.12.

Pennsylvania Legislature. (1897, Feb. 26). Pennsylvania legislature. New Bethlehem Vindicator PA, p.8.

People Events. (1895, Feb. 14). People and events. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.6.

Perry, L. (1929, Feb. 18). For the game’s sake. Altoona Mirror PA, p.15.

Pigskin Pickings. (1933, Oct. 13). Pigskin pickings. San Bernardino County Sun CA, p.18.

Pitcher Morris. (1887, Oct. 16). Pitcher Morris severely injured. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.13.

Plastic Helmet. (1940, Nov. 3). Plastic football helmet used by Northwestern. Kingsport Times TN, p.7.

Plumb, R.K. (1960, June 22). Neurosurgeons study knockout physiology. New York Times, p.38.

Polakoff, J. (1935, Oct. 24). Polley’s chatter. Scranton Republican PA, p.16.

Post Mortems. (1932, Dec. 28). Post mortems. Washington Post, p.11.

Povich, S. (1937, Jan. 11). This morning… with Shirley Povich. Washington Post, p.14.

Povich, S. (1937, Oct. 20). At the free lunch for overgrown kids. Washington Post, p.19.

Pratt Drops. (1906, Oct. 26). Pratt drops football because of danger. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.1.

Present Rules. (1926, Jan. 2). Present football rules are satisfactory in opinion of the Football Coaches Ass’n. Bryan Eagle TX, p.3.

President’s Day. (1907, Feb. 24). President’s busy day in Boston and in Cambridge. Boston Daily Globe, p.1.

Press Box. (1926, Nov. 10). The press box. Bluefield Daily Telegraph WV.

Princeton Re-Enforced. (1893, Nov. 20). Princeton is well re-enforced. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.4.

Princeton Wins. (1886, Nov. 14). Princeton wins again. New York Sun, p.2.

Princeton’s Opening. (1889, Oct. 6). Philadelphia Times, p.3.

Princeton’s Protest. (1887, Nov. 18). Princeton’s foot-ball protest. Philadelphia Times, p.1.

Pringle Over. (1898, Nov. 25). Pringle went over line for a touchdown for the University of California. San Francisco Call, p.2.

Proceedings AFCA. (1937, Dec. 29). Proceedings of the Seventeenth Annual Meeting of the American Football Coaches Association. AFCA.

Protesting Football. (1893, Dec. 1). Protesting against football. Allentown Leader PA, p.4.

Punch Drunk. (1928, Oct. 22). ‘Punch drunk’ may apply in other sports. Bismarck Tribune ND, p.1.

Punch Drunk. (1937, April 26). Punch drunk. Anniston Star AL, p.4.

Punch-Drunk Boxer. (1937, June 5). Punch-drunk boxer compensation claim fails. Sydney Morning Herald, Australia.

Punch-Drunk Football. (1937, Sept. 29). Punch-drunk football stars! Atlanta Constitution, p.8.

Punch-Drunk Forger. (1932, July 12). Punch-drunk forger gets parole here. Belvidere Republican-Northwestern IL, p.6.

Punch Drunkenness. (1928, Oct. 19). Punch drunkenness is found outside the boxing profession. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.31.

Punch Drunkenness. (1957, Feb. 19). Punch drunkenness can cripple boxers for life. Oxnard Press-Courier CA, p.11.

Rah! Rah! (1889, Nov. 29). Rah! Rah! Rah! Rah! Cincinnati Enquirer, p.2.

Ralph Missing. (1892, Jan. 1). Ralph H. Warren missing. New York Sun, p.2.

Reading Kick. (1914, Dec. 3). Reading High kick blamed for crazy of Allentown. Reading Times PA, p.1.

Reddy, B. (1949, Aug. 25). Keeping posted. Syracuse Post-Standard NY, p.12.

Redskins Bothered. (1937, Dec. 11). Redskins bothered by wintry blasts. New York Times, p.13.

Reform Football. (1909, Jan. 16). Reform in football. New York Tribune, p.10.

Reformed Foot-Ball. (1894, Oct. 30). Reformed foot-ball. Rochester Democrat and Chronicle NY, p.6.

Reichert, J.L., Glasscock, E.L., Logan, G.B., Maksim, G., Moody, E.E., Shaffer, T.E., Stuart, H.C., & Yankauer, A. (1956, October). Report: Committee on school health: Competitive athletics: A statement of policy [American Academy of Pediatrics]. Pediatrics, 18 (4), pp.672-76.

Rice, G. (1926, Nov. 15). Notre Dame, Navy, Brown, Stanford, Lafayette, NYU, Alabama leading unbeaten elevens. New York Herald Tribune, p.19.

Rice, G. (1931, Dec. 5). Grantland Rice’s sport light. Lincoln Evening Journal NE, p.8.

Rice, G. (1937, May 26). If kid has any knack, boxing is career, Leonard tells Rice. Baltimore Sun, p.19.

Richards, E.L. (1894, October). The football situation. Popular Science Monthly, 45, pp.721-33.

Richardson, W.D. (1940, Oct. 23). LaManna and Frank to see action for N.Y.U. on Saturday. New York Times, p.29.

Rigid Exams. (1962, Jan. 11). Rigid exams urged for grid players. Ogden Standard-Examiner UT, p.24.

Ring Official. (1936, Sept. 17). Ring official once fought as a pro. Washington Post, p.X19.

Ripley, R.L. (1919, Aug. 25). Gameness is usually associated with boxing. Houston Post, p.7.

Rising Deaths. (1961, Oct. 13). Rising grid deaths cause concern. Kansas City Times, p.30.

Roosevelt Crusade. (1905, Oct. 10). Roosevelt in new crusade. Chicago Tribune, p.1.

Roosevelt Robe. (1910, May 27). Roosevelt in red robe. Baltimore Sun, p.2.

Rules Exercise. (1891, May 3). Rules of exercise. Pittsburgh Dispatch, p.10.

Rules Manly. (1883, Nov. 24). Rules for a manly sport. New York Times, p.4.

Runyon, D. (1929, Nov. 7). Runyon says. Harrisburg Evening News PA, p.28.

Russell, D. (1962, Feb. 1). Rustlin’ sports: Trainers meeting will get attention. Albuquerque Journal, p.15.

Ryan, A.J. (1962, Sept. 2). Let’s stop football tragedies. The Week magazine, Salt Lake Tribune, p.95.

Safer Football. (1906, Nov. 27). Safer football. Hutchinson News KS, p.2.

Safer Football. (1909, Dec. 22). Safer football aim of experts. Bismarck Tribune ND, p.10.

Says Dangerous. (1906, July 3). Says athletics are dangerous to life. Indianapolis News, p.10.

Says Insane. (1928, March 13). Says he was insane when he killed wife. Wilkes-Barre Evening News PA, p.21.

Savage, H.J., Bentley, H.W., McGovern, J.T., & Smiley, D.F. (1929). American College Athletics: Bulletin Number Twenty-Three. Carnegie Foundation: New York.

Saxton Case. (1962, Feb. 8). Saxton case dismissed. New York Times, p.20.

Schneider, R.C., Reifel, E., Crisler, H.O., & Oosterbaan, B.G. (1961, Aug. 12). Serious and fatal football injuries involving the head and spinal cord. Journal of the American Medical Association, 177 (6), pp.362-67.

Schuylkill Victory. (1928, Oct. 15). Schuylkill victory not as impressive as score indicates. Reading Times PA, p.13.

Scraps. (1887, Dec. 2). “Scraps.” Indianapolis News, p.2.

Scrimmages Harmful. (1931, Oct. 17). Scrimmages harmful to team, Michigan State coach asserts. New York Times, p.18.

Scully Claims. (1937, Sept. 29). Scully claims that football changes players into ‘stumble backs,’ half-wits. Columbia Daily Spectator NY, p.3.

Season Close. (1909, Nov. 27). Season just closed most disastrous in history of football; 29 men killed. Topeka Daily Capital KS, p.1.

Sembower, J.F. (1961, Nov. 22) Players “wired” for sound probe cause of grid hurts. Circleville Herald OH, p.15.

Sheldon Ban. (1910, Jan. 22). Sheldon would put ban on high school game. Indianapolis News, p.8.

Shell-Shock Misnomer. (1931, Aug. 10). Shell-shock misnomer. Valparaiso Vidette-Messenger IN, p.4.

Shock Battle. (1915, June 8). Shock of battle causes rare ills. Bremen Enquirer IN, p.4.

Sidney Blackmer. (1920, May 30). Sidney Blackmer trains for stage as he did when playing football, he says. New York Tribune, p.B1.

Sideline Slants. (1937, Oct. 5). Sideline slants. Stanford Daily CA, p.3.

Sixty-Two Safer. (1905, Dec. 29). Sixty-two colleges for safer football. Harrisburg Daily Independent PA, p.4.

Smith, D.K. (1963, April 9). No butting. Ames Daily Tribune IA, p.9.

Smith, R. (1957, Dec. 25). Red Smith. New York Herald Tribune, p.B1.

Some Ex-Fighters. (1930, Aug. 11). Some ex-fighters on Easy Street. Daily Boston Globe, p.9.

Sport Comments. (1934, Jan. 5). Sport comments. De Kalb Daily Chronicle IL, p.6.

Sport Tips. (1938, Sept. 21). Sport tips. Frederick News MD, p.6.

Sporting News. (1901, Feb. 4). Sporting news in general. Oshkosh Daily Northwestern WI, p.3.

Sports Air. (1887, Nov. 27). Sports in the open air. New York Tribune, p.2.

St. John’s Prepping. (1933, Oct. 25). St. John’s is prepping for Hopkins game. Hagerstown Daily Mail MD, p.7.

Starnes, R. (1961, Nov. 24). Richard Starnes says: Football has its tragedies. Delaware County Times PA, p.4.

Steelton Wins. (1904, Oct. 31). Steelton wins by one point. Harrisburg Telegraph PA, p.6.

Steps Suggested. (1961, Oct. 14). Steps for curbing accidents suggested. Corpus Christi Caller TX, p.21.

Stevens, M.A., & Phelps, W.M. (1933). The Control of Football Injuries. A.S. Barnes and Company: New York.

Stop Tragedies. (1931, Dec. 10). Stop these football tragedies! Canandaigua Daily Messenger NY, p.10.

Strong Words. (1905, Nov. 27). Strong words from U. of C. Chicago Tribune, p.2.

Stroop, J.R. (1935). Studies of interference in serial verbal reactions. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 18, pp.643-62.

Students Stop. (1909, Nov. 2). Students stop all athletics. Scranton Truth PA, p.9.

Suicide Story. (1905, Dec. 1). Suicide story an absurdity, Clark says. Minneapolis Journal, p.14.

Surgeons Score. (1906, Jan. 6). Surgeons score gridiron sport. Greensboro Daily Industrial News NC, p.3.

Sustains Injury. (1914, Nov. 24). Sustains curious football injury. Escanaba Morning Press MI, p.5.

Swords Gloves. (1930, May 30). Swords and gloves. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.16.

Sylvester, H. (1935, Sept. 8). Sporting chances. New York Herald Tribune, p.SM16.

Tackling Rule. (1908, Nov. 7). Tackling not now a matter of strict rule. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p.6.

Taube, M. (1940, Nov. 3). Gridiron success is achieved by faithful practice of fundamentals. Hartford Courant CT, p.D3.

Tech Suggests. (1909, Nov. 23). Tech suggest rule changes. Atlanta Constitution, p.10.

Telander, R. (1989). The Hundred Yard lie: The Corruption of College Football and What We Can Do to Stop It. Simon and Schuster: New York.

Tells Insanity. (1909, Nov. 27). Tells of insanity in Ellis family. Daily Arkansas Gazette, p.1.

The Bag. (1893, Sept. 23). The tackling bag. San Francisco Chronicle, p.9.

The Century. (1887, Sept. 27). The Century for October. Easton Star-Democrat PA, p.3.

The Cumnock. (1890, Nov. 2). The Cumnock nose mask. New York Times, p.2.

The Deadly. (1902, Dec. 13). The deadly pigskin. Atlanta Constitution, p.6.

The Faults. (1893, Nov. 27). The faults at football. New York Sun, p.6.

The Foot Ball Rules. (1894, May 30). [No headline or byline for stand-alone text in column.] Fort Scott Daily Monitor KS, p.2.

The Footballs. (1888, Nov. 29). The footballs. New York Evening World, p.1.

The Game. (1892, Dec. 19). The football game. San Francisco Morning Call, p.4.

The Growth. (1894, Oct. 28). The growth of football. New York Sun, p.20.

The New. (1906, Oct. 12). The new football. New York Times, p.8.

The News. (1894, Jan. 6). The news in brief. San Bernardino Weekly Courier CA, p.6.

The Toll. (1912, Jan. 13). Winnipeg Tribune, Manitoba, Canada, p.4.

The Sport. (1889, Nov. 19). The sport of the season. Wilkes-Barre Evening News PA, p.2.

Theodore Hurt. (1905, Nov. 19). Theodore hurt in game: President’s son carried from the field unable to stir. Washington Post, p.3.

They Can’t. (1894, Dec. 28). The can’t slug now. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.1.

This Game. (1895, Nov. 2). This game will show. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.4.

Tigers Win. (1899, Nov. 26). Tigers win great game. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.17.

To Reform. (1897, Dec. 10). To reform the game of football. Rochester Democrat and Chronicle NY, p.23.

To Make. (1894, Jan. 2). To make football less brutal. Kansas City Gazette KS, p.3.

Training For. (1899, Oct. 29). Training for football. Detroit Free Press, p.C3.

Transit Company. (1912, Aug. 31). Transit Company employees’ outing. Allentown Democrat PA, p.1.

Trevor, G. (1925, Feb. 4). Centre College’s famous tackle may yet wear Dempsey’s crown. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.19.

Trotter, W. (1924, May 10). On certain minor injuries of the brain. British Medical Journal, 1 (3306), pp.816-19.

Tunney Backs. (1937, Feb. 5). Tunney backs school boxing. Baltimore Sun, p.16.

Two Football Players. (1909, Oct. 11). [No headline or byline for stand-alone text in column.] Asbury Park Press NJ, p.4.

UM Surgeon. (1961, May 3). U-M surgeon suggests four changes in football helmets. Traverse City Record-Eagle MI, p.18.

Uncle Sam. (1941, July 31). Uncle Sam adopts sort of helmets used by gridders. Uniontown Evening Standard PA, p.10.

Van Dellen, T.R. (1963, Feb. 2). Boxing is not worth misery. Lake Charles American-Press LA, p.11.

Vicious Aggies. (1940, Nov. 17). Vicious Aggies gridmen trample Rice with power. Hartford Courant CT, p.C5.

Vidmar, R. (1939, Nov. 19). Down in front. New York Herald Tribune, p.B8.

Vital Changes. (1912, Feb. 14). Vital changes in football code. Honolulu Evening Bulletin, p.9.

Walsh, G. (1961, Nov. 6). 18 football deaths: Is it the helmet? Sports Illustrated, 15 (21) , pp.24-25.

Walter Camp. (1894, Jan. 20). Walter Camp favors new rules. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.6.

Walton, G. L. (1883, October 11). Possible cerebral origin of the symptoms usually classed under “railway brain.” Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, 109 (15), pp.337-42.

War Pathologist. (1916, Oct. 6). War not near end, says pathologist, back in U.S. Indianapolis Star, p.7.

Warburg, J.R. (1932, Nov. 15). Talk about bridge. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.19.

Was Injured. (1900, Dec. 1). Was seriously injured. Philadelphia Times, p.5.

Watterson, J.S. (2000). College Football: History, Spectacle, Controversy. Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore.

Weak Defense. (1898, Oct. 23). Weak in defense. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.30.

Wesleyan Last. (1888, Nov. 30). Wesleyan comes last. New York Tribune, p.8.

Wesleyan Rear. (1888, Nov. 30). Wesleyan in the rear. New York Times, p.8.

Wesleyan Wins. (1887, Nov. 25). Wesleyan wins: A very rough game in which Pennsylvania is defeated. Saint Paul Globe, p.1.

Wesleyan Wins. (1889, Nov. 29). Wesleyan wins. Lebanon Daily News PA, p.1.

Westwick’s Sport. (1955, Aug. 9). Westwick’s in the realm of sport. Ottawa Journal, Ontario, Canada, p.16.

Weyand, A.M.(1926). American Football. D. Appleton and Company: New York.

Where Killed. (1909, Nov. 2). Where the man—not the beast—is killed. Atlanta Constitution, p.6.

Why Fall. (1934, Nov. 6). Why stars fall. Albany Democrat-Herald GA, p.4.

Will Play. (1910, Nov. 10). Will play old rivals. Allentown Democrat PA, p.8.

Wines, F.H. (1895, Dec. 1). Cure for madness. New Orleans Times-Picayune, p.27.

Winkelman, N.W., & Eckel, J.L. (1934, May). Brain trauma: Histopathology during the early stages. Archives of Neurology & Psychiatry, 31 (5), pp.956-986.

Wisconsin Favorite. (1928, Nov. 24). Wisconsin is favorite. Bismarck Tribune ND, p.4.

Wolgast Guardian. (1917, April 3). Guardian for Wolgast. Wichita Beagle KS, p.7.

Yale End. (1904, Oct. 9). Yale loses end rush McMahon. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.3.

Yale Harvard. (1890, Nov. 18). Pittsburgh Daily Post, p.6.

Yale Hero. (1901, Nov. 26). Yale hero taken home. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.6.

Yale Princeton. (1892, Nov. 23). Yale vs. Princeton. New Castle News PA, p.1.

Yale’s Turn. (1887, Nov. 20). Yale’s turn to yell. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.1.

Young Boxers. (1932, Sept. 21). Young boxers exploited for gain become punch drunk wrecks. Boston Globe, p.23.

Young, S. (1942, Sept. 16). Canadian sport snapshots. Winnipeg Tribune, Manitoba, Canada, p.17.

Your Health. (1936, July 6). Your health. Monongahela Daily Republican PA, p.2.

Youth Football. (1959, Aug. 30). Youth football out. San Bernardino County Sun CA, p.56.

Zero Score. (1894, Oct. 28). Zero was the score. San Francisco Chronicle, p.17.

Copyright ©2016 for historical arrangement by Matthew L. Chaney

Matt Chaney is a writer, researcher and consultant on public issues in sport, specializing in American football for three decades. Chaney, an MA in media studies, is a former college football player and coach whose books include Spiral of Denial: Muscle Doping in American Footballself-published in 2009Chaney’s study for graduate thesis, co-published with the University of Central Missouri in 2001, analyzed print sport-media coverage of anabolic substances in football from 1983-1999. Email him at mattchaney@fourwallspublishing.com or visit the website for more information.

News Line: ‘Heads Up’ Football and Policy, 1883-1936

By Matt Chaney

Posted Monday, April 11, 2016, ChaneysBlog.com

The historical texts and notes on football issues previously posted here in timeline were publicly available only for a term. The collections are now in reserve by the researcher for future use. The following remain posted:

Chaney, M. (2016, Dec. 21). ‘Safe Football Failed in 1880s, Talking Points Lived On. ChaneysBlog.com

Chaney, M. (2015, July 28). The 1890s: Brain risks confirmed in American football. ChaneysBlog.com.

Chaney, M. (2016, Jan. 30). 1900-1912: ‘First Concussion Crisis’ for beloved football. ChaneysBlog.com.

Chaney, M. (2016, May 11). ‘Heads Up’ theory, football helmets and brain disease, 1883-1962. ChaneysBlog.com.

Chaney, M. (2016, May 31). Teddy Roosevelt loved football, except when it brutalized his son. Sports.Vice.com.

Chaney, M. (2016, Nov. 29, 2016). “Slaughter of the innocents”: When D.C. considered banning high school football. Sports.Vice.com.

Matt Chaney is a writer, researcher and consultant on public issues in sport, specializing in American football for three decades. Chaney, MA in media studies, is a former college football player and coach whose books include Spiral of Denial: Muscle Doping in American Football, self-published in 2009Chaney’s study for graduate thesis, co-published with the University of Central Missouri in 2001, analyzed print sport-media coverage of anabolic substances in football from 1983-1999. Email him at mattchaney@fourwallspublishing.com or visit the website for more information.

Denial of Brain Damage in Boxing: 1928-1961

By Matt Chaney, chaneysblog.com

Posted Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Copyright ©2016 for historical arrangement by Matthew L. Chaney

1928: ‘some brain experts deny that punch drunk exists,’ says Dr. Harrison S. Martland

Nov. 18, 1928, Baltimore Sun MD, p.LT12

Blood Clots Make Fighter Punch Drunk

Tiny Hemorrhages In Brain Responsible For Condition Says Physician Who Studied It

How hundreds of tiny blood clots, each no larger than a pinhead, may form inside the gray matter of the human brain and ruin its ability to think or to control the body, is explained by Dr. Harrison S. Martland, of Newark, N.J., in reporting to the American Medical Association the first scientific study every made of the unusual prize fighter’s disease, called “punch drunk.”

So little has this condition been studied by physicians, Dr. Martland reports, that there are even some brain experts who deny that it exists. Nevertheless Dr. Martland has compiled a list of twenty-three former fighters who show its symptoms; chiefly dragging of the legs or arms, uncertainties of movement and slowness in thinking and in speech.

Every experienced promoter or manager of fights or fighters is familiar, he says, with the occasional appearance of these symptoms in former sparring partners of hard-hitting champions or in other fighters accustomed to take heavy punishment, especially blows on the head or face. In an accident case which came under Dr. Martland’s observation a blow on the head caused, it was found on postmortem, hundreds of the tiny blood clots, each due to the rupture of a small blood vessel.

Not much blood escaped from any one break, but the presence of the many small clots in the substance of the brain damaged the organ, in this case fatally.

It is very probable, Dr. Martland believes, that repeated severe jars to the head like those received in prize fights may cause just such blood vessel ruptures, resulting in the disturbances of movement or of thinking which the “punch drunk” ex-fighter shows.

1929:  Carnegie Report cautions NCAA schools against hiring doctors who are sports fans

Nov. 9, 1929, Jefferson City Post-Tribune MO, p. 6

Daily Health Service

Editor’s Note: This is the last of four articles by [JAMA editor] Dr. Morris Fishbein on the hygiene of athletics.

By Dr. Morris Fishbein

Editor Journal of The American Medical Association and of Hygeia, the Health Magazine.

In its survey of the hygiene of athletics training, the special committee, working under the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, emphasizes its conviction that athletics if properly conducted may be made to contribute significantly  to the physical health of students.

They point out that exercises in general, and athletics in particular, are not a panacea for all forms of ill health from flat feet to melancholia.

Another point of view is that athletics are in the nature of remedies to be prescribed for one person in one strength and for another in another strength, and not to be at all for other persons.

The committee is convinced that adequate physical examinations and adequate medical care and supervision of athletics are not yet available in most institutions. It is urged that in case of accident, the physician and not the trainer should go on the field to determine the nature of the injury and advisability of continuing play. There must not be participation in an excessive number of sports.

Furthermore, the physician should not be chosen because of his super enthusiasm for athletics and his desire to win at any cost, but rather for his ability to judge in the type of injury which he is most often asked to see.

Some of the hygenic practices associated with high school and college athletics are so filthy that they would not be tolerated for a moment in any other department of life. it has been found that the same athletic clothing is worn without washing for a long period of time and in the case of track athletics, not infrequently for four years. On the football field, the common drinking cup, water bottle and sponge are used in an exceedingly unsanitary manner.

The general uncleanliness of athletic clothing, locker rooms and wrestling mats is largely responsible for the spread of ringworm and infections of the skin.

The most dangerous feature of all is the constant emphasis on winning at any costs. In order to correct this emphasis, there must be a change in the point of view.

1931:  ‘shell shock’ condition isn’t caused by warfare, say doctors and officers of militaries worldwide

Aug. 10, 1931, Valparaiso Vidette-Messenger IN, p.4


This country has been hearing a lot about shell-shock since the war and many have been acquainted with the former service men assumed to be suffering from this condition. According to the sixth international congress of military medicine and pharmacy, held at The Hague, there is no such thing as shell-shock and the term has been misapplied. A New York health commissioner was one of the delegates to the session, which discussed a variety of problems arising from wartime ills.

The medical men were convinced that the so-called victims of shell-shock entered the war already suffering from some form of neurosis. It is, of course, easily apparent that some types succumbed more readily to the excitement and strain than others. In its formal findings, the medical congress declared that the war had not created psychosis of a new type and that no new morbid entity had been observed. The terms “shell shock” and “post concussion syndrome,” the congress reported, “have been wrongly applied at times.”

In connection to criminal cases attributable to so-called shell shock, the congress recommended strongly that penal responsibility of the patient should be determined by a psychiatrist. That plan, of course, is only fair to both the prisoner and to society. The medical conference urged that an elaborate system of handling psychoneurotic persons should be instituted in war time. It also suggested a broader method of treatment for all those suffering from nervous disorders, dividing such victims into several classes and treating those deemed curable.

The report of the congress regarding shell-shock may provoke some discussion in this country when veterans are told that their condition is nothing more than a malady they already had before the war. It is true, of course, that a number of ills ascribed to army service were scarcely attributable to that cause. The cases of so-called shell shock, however, had usually been eliminated from that category.—Indianapolis Star

1932:  boxing promoter says ‘bad habits’ cause ‘punch drunk’ condition, not punches, throughout the general population

June 5, 1932, Hartford Courant CT, p.C5

Fighters Are Not Alone In Being ‘Punch Drunk’

Seattle, Wash.—(AP)—Bankers, bookkeepers, street car men or any other persons are just as apt to become “punch drunk” as boxers, declares Buddy Bishop, Seattle promoter, who has been connected with the boxing business for 40 years.

“Dissipations and not punches bring a boxer to the ‘punch drunk’ stage,” explained Bishop. “Bad liquor, later hours, unnatural habits and bad associates will make any person groggy in time. Boxers do not get ‘punch drunk’ from beatings.”

1936:  ‘boxing folks always say something else causes the wreck of a once-normal human being,’ scribe observes

March 27, 1936, Brooklyn Daily Eagle NY, p.28



Believe it or not, an English hospital is looking into this grisly business of fighters going “punch-drunk.” It wants to know what cause that, as our old friend Moran and Mack used to say, What is the matter with the poor was once explained by a Mr. B. Shaw. He said it was poverty. You become wealthy if you make a lot of money. Old age, it is now generally conceded, is caused by celebrating too many birthdays. And as surely, too many collisions with upholstered knuckles will produced the punch-drunk fighter.

It is all very simple, yet it is strange how many people like to make something very complex out of it. Particularly folks who live on and by the fight game. They are the last to admit that mere wallopings scramble a fighter’s brain, put mumbles in his speech, and locomotor ataxia in his nervous system. I have discussed the subject with hundreds of them, but usually the answer is the same. Always it is something else that caused the wreck of a once normal human being.

This is a case, undoubtedly, of the wish being father to the thought. But is is remarkable what a variety of thoughts, fancy flights of the imagination then can bring to bear on the subject. I once knew a young heavyweight of the give-and-take type whose eyesight became affected from too much punching about the head. Facing certain blindness he quit the ring. After that I met his manager. It was too bad he had to take so much punishment, I commiserated, only to learn that wasn’t the case at all!

“He didn’t get that from punchings,” explained the manager. “About a year ago he was in an automobile accident and the shock affected an optic nerve. He could never see right after that.” The manager talked as if he meant it. Possibly he had given the excuse so often that even he himself had come to believe it.


This form of self-hypnotism makes the subject construe beatings as merely incidental to the punch-drunk condition. One of the favorite “trances” of the sort has to do with dissipation and the fighting man. When a pug “goes bad,” mentally, you are always told that he tried to mix fighting with gay carryings-on.

One cannot fight in a weakened state, you are told, which is quite true. But the fact that few fighters do seems to be conveniently overlooked. They train hard for fights, and doctors who pass on them for condition always pronounce them in perfect shape, else they do not fight.

However, assume a scrapper is given to dissipation, you still find it is the the thrashings in the ring that class him as “punchy.” Many people dissipate more or less, a whole life long, but they do not become punch-drunk. They may suffer in other ways, but the only way one can become punch-drunk is by getting punched.

Where To Get It

Thus, if all the fighters who have the “wobbles” in their gait, and the “gargles” in their talk had never fought they wouldn’t be “punch-drunk,” would they? They couldn’t get it working in an office, driving a truck, painting a house, or along similar healthful trails of life. Only in the ring can they get it, and it is a fact that the clean living gladiator is as susceptible to it as his careless living fellow battler. Simply, the human frame was never designed to stand such persistent, skilled and savage hammering. But Cauliflower folk alone will not admit this, and the reason is natural. No one llikes to believe his life job is such as to drive him daffy.

And so an English fight trainer theorizes: “If only these men were to look after themselves more they would never reach the condition the doctors are seeking a cure for. For at least a week after a fight they would eat sparingly, take plenty of fresh air and hot baths, and also go in for massage. If this were done there would be far fewer punch-drunks.”

But a former champion fighter once told me that he saw Bob Fitzsimmons slam a rival on the temple, and that the victim was looney from this one wallop for the rest of his life. Just from that one soul-searing smash.

Maybe that wallop made him forget to eat sparingly, take plenty of fresh air and go in for massage.

1936:  Dempsey blames fighters for ‘punch drunk’ disease, not boxing

May 8, 1936, Scranton Republican PA, p.20


By Joe Polakoff, Sports Editor

PUNCH DRUNKS…Fighters get punch drunk because they let down too quickly after hard battles, says Jack Dempsey.

“Instead of sleeping and lolling around for a couple of days after a fight, they usually rush out of their dressing rooms and hit for a big party,” says Dempsey. “That relieves the pressure too fast and softens ’em up quickly. They become easier targets the next time out.”

Dempsey advocates two managers for each fighter, one to get matches and arrange the business end. The other to train the fighter properly.

1936:  new UMaryland boxing coach promises safe, old-time fighting in his program of the NCAA

Sept. 17, 1936, Washington Post DC, p.X19

Ring Official Once Fought As a Pro

Coach Has Been Referee for 30 Years, Sports Editor, Promoter

The University of Maryland’s stock on the collegiate clouting market zoomed yesterday with the announcement that Maj. Harvey. L. (Heinic) Miller, long a prominent figure in the fight game, had accepted the position of boxing coach for the Terrapin beak bangers.

Miller, who is secretary of the District Boxing Commission and editor of Our Navy, a monthly service publication, succeeds Capt. John W. Harmon and will be assisted by Lyman McAboy, a prominent contender in past Southern Conference championship meets.

Himself t one time a very good professional fighter, Miller has been prominently identified with the boxing business since his retirement from the ring. For a number of years he served as sports editor of a local paper and once was the leading promoter hereabouts in the days when boxing was “bootlegged” to the fistic fans in matches held just outside the District.

30 Years a Referee

Miller has been a referee for the past 30 years. He has served as an official referee for the Eastern Intercollegiate Boxing Association and the Southern Conference since 1925.

The major participated in 205 bouts during his fighting career. All but 22 of them were professional engagements, and he lost only six. he won the bantamweight championship of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps in a tournament at Newport, R.I., in 1906—two years after he started fighting. …

Miller is a veteran of the World War and saw service in Cuba, the Phillipines, China, Nicaragua and Mexico. he is a major in the Fleet Corps Reserves, commanding the Fifth Battalion of that organization.

Hopes For Real Boxers

“I want to get out a larger squad, preach loyalty and training,” said Miller yesterday, in discussing his appointment. “I shall actually get in the ring with my boys a couple of hours each day and see if we can’t do with a bunch of smart college ringmen something like Jack Blackburn has done with Louis. By that, I mean that we will try to bring back the 1900 style of feinting, counter-punching and on-balance hitting which was the vogue in the days when haphazard punches to non-vital spots were just as rare as tin ears and punch-drunk fisticuffians.”

1937:  ‘fear exaggerated’ for boxing in schools, NCAA, and benefits outweigh risks, says ex-champ

Feb. 5, 1937, Baltimore Sun MD, p.16


Hopes Virginia Will Not Ban Sport After Death of V.M.I. Boy

(By The Associated Press)

Richmond, Va., Feb. 4—Gene Tunney, former heavyweight boxing champion of the world, expressed the hope today that intercollegiate boxing would not be curtailed in Virginia as the result of the fatal injuries received by a V.M.I. cadet in a bout last week.

In a letter written to the Richmond Times-Dispatch from Washington, Tunney described the sport as a combination of “fine vigorous exercise with character building.”

Commenting on the action of his old Marine commander, Gen. John A. Lejeune, superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute, in canceling the ring schedule of the school after the death of Cadet W.J. Eastham, Tunney urged that the sport not be abandoned after this season.

“General Lejeune, my commander, loves a good scrap as well as anyone,” Tunney said. “He has always been very much interested in boxing. Of course, anyone would have closed the schedule under such circumstances.

“But to think that such an accident, serious as it is to the boy’s parents and friends, would bring about a movement to curtail all intercollegiate boxing throughout Virginia, is, I believe, rather saddening, particularly for those who have pictured the sport of boxing coming into its own through school and college interest.”

Referring to an editorial in the paper referring to “mental incompetency, due to pummeling of craniums,” Tunney said:

“It is my belief–after a long experience with amateur and professional boxers–that that fear is exaggerated. The punishment a young man in good physical condition sustains in a college boxing contest is insignificant compared with that which football players sustain in a game, or members of the crew bear in the course of a race.”

Pro Game Different

“Of course, when they change the atmosphere of the amateur ring to that of the professional ring, there is danger of eventual ‘punch drunk’ or incompetence in proportion to the increase and severity of the punishment.

“However, school and college boxing should not be concerned with these remote possibilities and, as one who has gone through hundreds of amateur and professional contests (not altogether unscathed, but still sound, I hope), and who has found only cleanness of body and development of character–the reward for those who know the wisdom of moderation—may appeal to you to throw the influence of your paper against the movement to curtail amateur school and college boxing in Virginia.

1937:  ‘punch drunk’ is unproven theory, non-existent in boxing, say ring supporters

April 26, 1937, Anniston Star AL, p.4

Punch Drunk

The least welcome topic of conversation among fight managers and promoters is boxing’s most prevalent occupational affliction: punch drunkenness.

Because they give the boxing game a brutal, unwholesome aura, “slap happy” or “punchy” ex-fighters, who have lost their mental balance from abnormal pounding on the head, are usually committed quietly to private or state institutions, occasionally taken care of generously by their former associates, and almost always forgotten thereafter.

Because even extensive laboratory tests have thus far failed to provide medical men with a complete explanation of this abnormality, only theory supports charges that the mumbling, hazy derelicts of boxing got that way from taking excessive punishment in the ring. Consequently, many of boxing’s ardent supporters defend the game by disavowing the existence of the affliction.—Literary Digest

1937:  allegedly punch-drunk boxers should blame themselves because many ex-boxers feel great, says ex-champion

May 26, 1937, Baltimore Sun MD, p.19

If Kid Has Any Knack, Boxing Is Career, Leonard Tells Rice

Ex-Champ Scores Warners—Points to Opportunities For Earnings and Broader Life If Boy Will Learn Hi Trade, Doesn’t Dissipate—And Has Equipment

By Grantland Rice

New York, May 25—Benny Leonard will argue with you all day if you intimate that professional boxing is not a desirable career for a young man—a young who, of course, is equipped to get somewhere with his fists.

“Naturally,” Benny says, “I wouldn’t advise a boy to start boxing professional who was doomed to stay in the preliminary ranks–anymore than I would advise him to be a tailor if I didn’t think he could make a suit of clothes. …”

“I love boxing. Boxing was very good to me–and there is no reason shy it shouldn’t be just as good to any other boys who takes it seriously and conducts himself decently.”

Why single out fighters?

“Why is it you newspaper fellows are always advising kids to stay away from the ring? Because you think they will spend the best years of their lives getting punched around and wind up with nothing, and that they’ll be lucky if they don’t wind up walking on their heels, eh?

“Why don’t you look at it this way? If a boy takes proper care of himself and learns how to box, the punishment he takes in the ring isn’t going to do him any harm. I can point out to you dozens of fellows–some of them ex-champions and some fellows in the ring for a long time–who are healthy middle-aged men and either comfortably fixed, or , with their ring days behind them, are earning good livings at something else.

“You say you can show me a lot of broken-down fighters, too. That’s right. But I can show you a lot of broken-down fellows who never had on a boxing glove in their lives. Misfortunes or dissipation have ruined many a ball players, jockey, tennis player, newspaper man or business man, haven’t they? You know some fellows who never were fighters, but who are all washed up at 35 or 40, don’t you?

“But they aren’t punch-drunk, you say. All right, Now let me tell you something: There is no need for a fighter to get punch-drunk, either. The fighter who winds up on his heels is the fighter who never learned his business in the first place and, in the second, weakened himself and undermined his health by dissipation. And I may be wrong, but I think that those characteristics aren’t exactly peculiar to fighters.”

 1938:  Navy researchers suggest boxing inexperience typically causes ‘punch drunk‘ disease, which they term as ‘dementia pugilistica’

Jan. 16, 1938, New York Times NY, p.67

It’s ‘Dementia Pugilistica’ And Not ‘Punch Drunk’

Special Correspondence, The New York Times

WASHINGTON–Uncle Sam’s navy doctors do not care for the term “punch drunk.” They admit it is colorful and “scarcely requires elucidation,” but say it tends to encumber nosological nomenclature.

The term “dementia pugilistica” has been coined instead for persons suffering delusions of pugilistic prowess. It would apply to any one who puts up his “dukes” at the sound of a trolley-car bell, or who habitually scowls, snorts, blows, grimaces, crouches or squares off like a boxer.

A recent government bulletin explains that the most typical examples of this disorder are usually found among the less expert boxers, particularly as concerns defensive ingenuity—boxers capable, nevertheless, of absorbing inordinate punishment.

1938:  reports of boxing ‘punch drunk’ condition are ‘grossly exaggerated,’ says UWisconsin neurologist, adding that ‘proper coaching, officiating and medical supervision’ will eliminate all chance of the problem at colleges

June 24, 1938, Baltimore Sun MD, p.17

Boxing Weight Limits Lifted

Colleges Raise Bantams to 120 Pounds and Feathers to 127

(By the Associated Press)

Annapolis, June 23–The weight limits of two classes of college boxing were increased today by the National Collegiate Athletic Association in order to relieve boxers from the strain of reducing their poundage.

The committee also decided to hold the annual national intercollegiate boxing meet at the University of Wisconsin on March 30, 31 and April 1.

After discussion had brought out that most colleges have had trouble in finding boxers light enough to compete in the present bantamweight and featherweight classes, the committee boosted the bantamweight limit from 115 to 120 pounds and the featherweight class limit from 125 to 127 pounds.

Other Classes Unchanged

The other classes authorized by the rules were unchanged. They are lightweight, 135 pounds; welterweight, 145 pounds; senior welterweight, 155 pounds; middleweight, 165 pounds; light-heavyweight 175 pounds,and unlimited weight, over 175 pounds.

The official group also decreed that boxers in the future cannot weight more than the top weight of the class in which they will compete. This eliminates the old rules which allowed boxers to weight four pounds more than the weight limit.

Another change was the adoption of a rule making it mandatory for boxers to weight in four hours before a meet, eliminating the optional clause which allowed weighing in during the four-hour period.

It was also agreed that by mutual consent between competing institutions, teams of more than eight men may be used by matching two or men in any of the weight classes. This will allow coaches by agreement to stage two bantamweight, heavyweight or any other class bouts they desire in an official meet.

Must Stick To Class

A section was added to the rules to prevent a boxer entering any tournament in a weight class in which he has not participated in at least 50 percent of the bouts during the dual meets of the season. This would prohibit a boxer who has fought in two weights during the season, but a majority in the heavier weight, from training down to enter a tournament in the lighter weight.

Dr. W.J. Blackwenn, professor of nervous and mental diseases and boxing representative at the University of Wisconsin, declared that reports of “punch-drunk” college fighters have been grossly exaggerated. He pointed out that the few cases reported have little foundation in fact, and that by proper training, coaching, medical supervision and officiating, the condition cannot occur in college boxing.

1938:  amateur boxing organization blames poorly constructed gloves for ‘punch drunk,’ scribe writes

June 1, 1938, Hartford Courant CT, p.11

Calling ‘Em Right

With Bert Keane, Sports Editor

Change Your Gloves

Beginning today the Amateur Athletic Union is imposing new regulations in the use of the boxing gloves by simon-pure fighters. Observations by officers of the union have shown that many types of boxing gloves now being used are poorly constructed, thus causing fighters to become punch drunk.

The union contends that it is the policy to teach the youth of American to fight scientifically and to defend themselves properly. The intention of pleasing the crowd is not the foremost aim.

Heretofore, although gloves were of the regulation weight of 8 or 10 ounces the padding was poorly distributed, much of it being around the wrists instead of covering the knuckles. Other gloves contained padding of a poor grade which soon separated causing injury to both fighters.

Under the new ruling all gloves must bear the AAU seal before they can be used in regulation amateur tourneys or exhibitions.

1939:  boxing only needs regulation and proper training, coaching, to limit a fighter’s exposure, says ex-champ

July 16, 1939, Los Angeles Times CA, p.13


By Johnny Kilbane

as told to Paul Zimmerman

A few weeks ago I sat at ringside in Los Angeles during a series of bouts which brought loud and frequent protests from the people who paid their good money to see a display of the manly art of boxing.

“Make ’em fight! Make ’em fight!” …

I am convinced boxers today are, potentially, just as willing, just as courageous as they were in the 20-round days.

The trouble lies, to my way of thinking, with the present-day system.

In many instances there is faulty control over the sport by commissions that make boxing a political football, allowing it, oftentimes, to become a racket.

Then there are the chiseling promoters. One of the most vicious harms today is the effort to put the game on a syndicate basis.

Many managers—as many as 90 percent—either don’t know their business or do but fail to protect their fighters. And then, the seconds; they often harm a fighter more than the opponent does.

What do I suggest?

The best plan I know of would be to put boxing under a national commissioner—a strong man who is all-powerful. such a man as baseball has in Judge Kenesaw Landis. Qualifications? Well, he would have to be a man of integrity, a good businessman and a man who knows boxing.

Where can we find such a man?

What’s the matter with Gene Tunney?

Then let this commissioner appoint supervisors in the various sections or States; men like Ritchie, your boxing inspector in Southern California, or Jim McLarnin, the former world’s welterweight champion.

A commissioner with fortitude could keep boxers, managers and promoters in line with the threat of a national suspension that means something. Today a man can be barred in California and fight in almost any other State in the Union.

Let’s start with the fighter. Most of our present-day boxers come up from the amateur ranks. And I’d like to say here and now that many of our so-called simon-pure fighters actually get more money than the professionals who fight preliminaries. I think this sham is bad for the youth to start with.

The majority of our present-day fighters are poorly trained. Defense is a lost art. There’s too much stress on punching. A young boy goes into the gymnasium, puts on a headgear, dons oversized gloves and starts swinging.

He doesn’t learn defense because he doesn’t get hurt with all that protection. As a result modern fighting has become installment mayhem. Raw clubbing has adulterated the most skillful of all sports.

Training has become a sham. For this reason we have few fighters who could go through 20 rounds of training, let alone a long fight.

Take what I consider my hardest fight. It was held in a barn outside of Cleveland back in 1909–winner take all. …

We have too many punch-drunk fighters reeling around our gyms and on our fight cards today because the commissions, the promoters and the managers—the men who should know–don’t tell a poor boxer to get out before he is washed up. …

Let me repeat that properly trained and properly matched boxers will give a good account of themselves if permitted to do do. …

I don’t want my readers to think this criticism of the boxing game means I have soured on the sport or my many friends in it.

Boxing was good to me. I was paid $2,300 when I won the title here but I received $100,000 when I defended the crown for the last time and lost to Eugene Criqui in New York in 1923. I knew it was time for me to quit and I did.

At 50 I’m in fine health; my features are unmarked and I still have my self-respect. That’s important.

My criticism of boxing has been solely for the good of the game I still love. I only hope you place the blame on the right shoulders when you go to a bad bout and feel the urge to shout:

“Make ’em fight!”

1947:  boxers get ‘punch drunk’ from poor training, gloves, and football is just as bad for any such condition, scribe writes

Oct. 23, 1947, Mattoon Journal Gazette IL, p.9

Fair or Foul

By Lawton Carver

International News Service Sports Editor

New York—One of the great innovations currently needed in football is a game called off on a technical knockout.

When a fighter is hopelessly beaten and appears about to be permanently bruised, the official or officials have the right to step in and stop it. In football, it seems, a man doesn’t begin to show his courage until his bones begin to stick out through his jersey. …

The educators who get up on a rostrum occasionally and pop off about the evils of football always overlook that they are the ones who permit these slaughters. …

It is unbelievably strange that in the prize ring where pug-uglies take their swipes at each other, there is official humaneness, while in football the little guy playing the big guy is expected to take it until he is carried off the field. …

The general public probably would be surprised to know that there is a considerable amount of post traumatic encephalitis among football players.

That triple jointed word when translated bluntly means punch-drunk.

The prize-fighter actually gets most of his punch-drunkenness while working out In training, big gloves are used and the attempt to avoid punches is negligible.

Yet, with these big gloves on, fighters can hit each other hard enough to jolt the brain, tiny little hemorrhages in the blood vessels are set up and the next thing you know a guy has the equivalent of a locomotor ataxia and a mouth full of marbles.

In football it works the same way—only different. The guy’s brains are scrambled—or those blood vessels are ruptured—from belts on the head in close and from being bounced around the ground and kicked occasionally.

Some of the veteran pro football players talk with much the same mumble that you hear among fighters who have been swatted too much. This is set up while they still are in college.

1947:  college football players are ‘punchy,’ not boxers, says letter-writer

Oct. 5, 1947, Chapel Hill Daily Tar Heel NC, p.2

Write Away

Consider the Sport Boxing

Fellow Students:

Boxing has been dropped from the winter schedule of sport activities. You probably didn’t know about this until now. ..

I was told that boxing was dropped by the Athletic Council because of lack of interest, too many nose injuries, and the large number of undesirable characters that have boxed for the University of North Carolina. These reasons were given to me by a member of the Athletic Council and I feel that the latter reasoning is an insult to all former and present members of the University’s boxing team. …

As for nose injuries or any kind of injuries, I don’t believe that boxing in college even on a percentage basis, is anywhere close to football in that category. How many boxers in college do you know that have received permanent injuries or have become punchy due to boxing with ten ounce gloves?

Sincerely yours,

Dick Young

1953:  ‘Most Boxing Injuries Can Be Prevented,’ headline states over doctor’s newspaper column

July 9, 1953, Winona Republican-Herald MN, p.6

Most Boxing Injuries Can Be Prevented

By H.N. Bundesen, M.D.

Until public clamor over ring fatalities and brutalities caused boxing authorities to take action, the physician had little part to play in professional and amateur boxing. He might, before the bout, stethescope the prize fighters and check their blood pressure and body temperature. He then took his usual seat until it was time to repair the damaged men.

Today in progressive states, medial measures are now being undertaken to protect the fighters. Physicians thoroughly screen the men to make sure that their hearts are in good condition. They examine for the possibility of epilepsy or the tendency to have convulsions.

Brain Waves Measured

In some states, any fighter that is knocked unconscious is required to have an electroencephalogram, which is taken by an instrument that measures the brain waves and determines whether any brain damage has been brought about.

Much damage can be prevented by using eight and ten-ounce gloves rather than the usual six-ounce glove. The old glove used to have loose padding so that it could be shifted away from the knuckles. The more preventive type of glove is made of latex-bound pad.

The resin used to coat the floors of the ring to provide adequate friction is now being replaced by calcium carbonate. This will protect the fighter’s eyes, since the resin is very damaging to the eyes.

Safer Mouth Pieces

New plastic mouth pieces have been perfected so that the shock of jaw blows can be lessened. These are much safer and more effective than the rubber mouth pieces now being used.

The thin canvas mats that were once used are now being replaced by a synthetic soft substance, known as ensolite, which cushions the falls.

Physicians have learned that fighting might give rise to specific diseases. Boxing and repeated blows to the head may result in permanent damage to the brain and nervous system.

Medical and laboratory skills have combined in the fight to protect the fighter from his occupational hazards.

1955:  ‘boxing is relatively safe, with no definite evidence of brain damage in EEG study,’ say doctors

June 6, 1955, Escanaba Daily Press MI, p.12

New York Physician Calls Other Sports Tougher Than Boxing

By Jack Hand

NEW YORK (AP) A New York physician today called boxing “relatively safe” and rated football and pro ice hockey as tougher contact sports.

Dr. Mal Stevens, chairman of the medical advisory board of the New York State Athletic Commission, defended boxing against charges of “barbarism” voiced by a British physician in a speech to the American Medical Assn. at Atlantic City, N.J.

“With proper supervision, equipment, coaching, training and officiating, boxing has become relatively safe,” said Dr. Stevens, former football coach at Yale and New York University.

Danger In All

“There is an element of danger in all contact sports,” he said. “I believe there is more chance of permanent injury in football or pro hockey where the contestants rush at each other from a distance and momentum becomes a factor.

The British physician, Dr. James Hamilton Doggart of Moorsfield Eye Hospital, London, stressed the idea that a boxer can get damaging “cauliflower eyes” (hemorrhages in blood vessels of the eye nourishing the retina and lens).

Denies Brain Damage

“Retinal detachment is not peculiar to boxing,” said Dr. Stevens. “While I was a Yale we had three cases of detached retina. One came from football, another was the result of a boy being hit by a squash racquet and third from an exploding seltzer bottle.”

“The British physician said pre-fight physical exams did little more than “separate the cripples and morons.” He also said “one expert has said that probably no head blow is taken with impunity, and each knockout caused definite and irreparable damage.

“We have taken tests of 2,047 license boxers with the electro-encephalogram,” said Dr. Stevens, “and we’re still looking for definite evidence of any brain damage.”

1959:  ‘the so-called punch-drunk syndrome has been successfully challenged by an overwhelming weight of scientific evidence,’ doctor writes in JAMA

May 27, 1959, Salt Lake Tribune UT, p.13

Sports Mirror by

John Mooney

Tribune Sports Editor

Question Box

“Which of the three major American sports–boxing, baseball or football–causes the most deaths? And what about the great number of boxers who wind up ‘punch drunk.’ Bettey B., Provo.”

ANSWER—Dr. Ira McCowan, in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., asserts, “Many sports authorities, and even some physicians, mistakenly believe the incidence of fatalities and serious injuries is greater in boxing than in any of the other body contact sports.

“The Gonzales report of fatalities in competitive sports, based on a study from 1918 to 1950, found there were more deaths in baseball and football then in boxing in that period. There were 43 deaths in baseball, 22 in football and 21 in boxing.”

Dr. McCowan concludes, “The so-called punch-drunk syndrome has been successfully challenged by an overwhelming weight of scientific evidence. The clinical picture and pathological findings associated with this syndrome are not peculiar to boxing alone, but have been found in the average populace as frequently, if not more frequently, than in boxers.”

Dr. Tony Curreri, of the University of Wisconsin, who studied electric-encephalograms on thousands of boxers, says there are as many “punchy” folks going through life as there are ex-boxers who are hearing bells.

1960:  ‘boxing knockouts don’t leave brain damage,’ doctors argue:

June 22, 1960, New York Times NY, p.38

Neurosurgeons Study Knockout Physiology

No Lasting Changes in Brain Produced

But Specialists Do Not Agree on the ‘Punch Drunk’

By Robert K. Plumb

Knockout in the boxing ring occurs when the brain’s organizing network is suddenly overwhelmed by nervous signals, two nerve specialists reported here yesterday.

The ring knockout does not produce lasting changes in the brain, the two asserted at a medical conference on injuries and deaths in professional boxing that was sponsored by the New York State Athletic Commission.

However, specialists at the meeting disagreed on the cause of the phenomenon known as “punch drunk.” One held that a boxer could become punch drunk as a result of repeated knockouts; the other said that knockouts had nothing to do with the condition.

The physiology of the knockout was discussed in studies conducted by Dr. Jefferson Browder, neurosurgeon of the Long Island College Hospital, and Dr. Harry A. Kaplan, Associate Professor of Neurosurgery at the State University of New York, Downstate Medical Center.

Long Study Made

Dr. Kaplan reported that he and Dr. Browder had long studied knockouts at ringside with a view to furthering medical understanding of unconsciousness common in many medical emergencies. They soon decided that boxing, unless a fighter fell and hit head on the mat, produced only a temporary state of affairs in the brain. They maintained that it was different from being hit by an automobile. …

Others at the conference maintained that professional boxing did not have so many injuries or fatalities as other sports.

The chief medical examiner of New York City, Dr. Milton Helpern, reported on autopsy findings of boxers who died in this city after bouts. …

Dr. Helpern said that he agreed with Dr. Kaplan that the usual ring knockout was a temporary thing and that residual injury to the brain usually could not be established as resulting from blows to the head.

Dr. Abraham M. Rabiner, Emeritus Professor of Neurology at the State University of New York College of Medicine, discussed the punch drunk. He said he did not know what caused the condition. However, Dr. Rabiner speculated that repeated knockouts could injure the brain as a series of small strokes could injure it. …

Dr. Marvin A. [Mal] Stevens, chairman of the medical advisory board of the New York State Athletic Commission, and Dr. Ira A. McCown, the commission’s medical director, were chairmen for scientific sessions that began Monday and ended yesterday at the New York University-Bellevue Medical Center.

Participants at the symposium went to the weighing-in ceremony before the [Floyd Patterson-Ingemar Johansson] fight Monday night and most attended the bout. At the conference were ring physicians and other medical specialists, former boxers and boxing officials.

1961:  AMA Sports Medical members ‘have made a stand in support of intercollegiate boxing,’ scribe writes

Jan. 8, 1961, Idaho State Journal ID, p.11

On The Sidelines

By Tom Morrison

Journal Sports Editor

Can intercollegiate boxing make a comeback and enjoy the prestige it acquired at the height of its success?

We think it can and will do so.

Our opinion is based upon the recent developments during the American Medical Association’s Conference on the Medical Aspects of Sports held in Washington, D.C. The doctors not only sanctioned collegiate boxing but disagreed with the University of Wisconsin’s decision to retire from ring competition.

From a feeble beginning in 1932 and 1936, when bouts were held to qualify college boxers for the Olympic tryouts, the sport progressed like a champion to the National Collegiate Boxing Championships sponsored by the NCAA in 1957, when it hit its peak and Idaho State College won the national crown by taking seven out of ten weight classes and compiled a record number of points.

Since then the intercollegiate sport has taken several verbal blows on the chin from fans, coaches, school officials, writers, experts and even the participants.

Intercollegiate boxing received the hardest blow in its history last April 9 when wiry, 22-year-old Charles Mohr, probably one of the finest collegiate boxing in the nation for the University of Wisconsin and the 165-pound titleholder in ’59, stepped into the ring at Madison to defend his crown against San Jose State’s Stu Bartell and minutes later was in a deep coma from an intracranial hemorrhage following a moderate blow to the head which caused his death eight days later.

The punch rocked the collegiate boxing world. …

From April until the AMA in December, intercollegiate boxing reeled on the ropes from the unfounded verbal beating it was taking from opponents of the sport. …

Finally, the men who know have made a stand supporting intercollegiate boxing… the nation’s doctors and the American Medical Association. …

The doctors at the AMA conference in the nation’s capitol agreed that organized sports are well worth the risk of injury. They disagreed with the University of Wisconsin, which after Mohr’s death retired from intercollegiate boxing.

Time magazine, reporting on the conference in the Dec. 12 issue, said, “Bad injuries in sports happen often enough to keep doctors seriously worried.”

The weekly publication stated the Air Force in 1958 announced that 3,222 of its men had been disabled or killed in sports activities during a single year.

The breakdown of the Air Force injuries and fatalities, in parenthesis, is as follows: Softball 703, football 520, basketball 504, volleyball 137, skeet shooting 76 (1), water sports 359 (75), winter sports 151, baseball 147, hunting 70 (2), hiking 16, and others 536.

Boxing wasn’t listed in the report but was included in the category “others.”

At the conference, Harvard University’s Dr. Thomas B. Quigley said, “Whenever young men gather regularly on green autumn fields, on winter ice, or polished wooden floors to dispute the possession and position of various leather and rubber objects, according to certain rules, sooner or later somebody gets hurt.”

All must agree to this logic, but the big question before the doctors was: Are organized sports worth the risk?

The doctors answered with a QUALIFIED YES.

Furthermore, the doctors stated, boxing was good for youth. The medics agreed with Harvard’s Quigley that “young men must blow off steam and the playing field is much to be preferred to the tavern.”

Dr. Harry A. Kaplan of New York of New York blasted the popular theory that “punch-drunkenness” is brought on by repeated blows to the head in the ring.

He reported that a ten-year study of 3,000 electroencephalograms (recording of the brain’s electric current) taken on boxers showed no relationship between boxing and degenerative brain disease. Dr. Kaplan and said that the “punch drunk” ex-pugilist would probably have suffered the same fate had he never boxed at all.

Protection given intercollegiate boxers with head guards, padded gloves, mouthpieces, proper supervised training and careful scrutiny of the fighters in actual competition by competent officials and ringside doctors leaves very little chance of injury.

Matt Chaney is a researcher, writer, and consultant on public issues in sport, specializing in American football for three decades. Chaney, MA in media studies, is a former college football player and coach whose books include Spiral of Denial: Muscle Doping in American Football, self-published in 2009Chaney’s study for graduate thesis, co-published with the University of Central Missouri in 2001, analyzed print sport-media coverage of anabolic substances in football from 1983-1999. Email him at mattchaney@fourwallspublishing.com or visit the website for more information.


1900-1912: ‘The First Concussion Crisis’ For Beloved Football

Part Two in a Series

Brain Injury in American Football: 130 Years of Knowledge and Denial

By Matt Chaney, ChaneysBlog.com

Posted Saturday, January 30, 2016

Revised Friday, April 6, 2018, for adding historical information such as original “heads up” tackling theory and the 1907 condemnation of football for juveniles by JAMA, doctors on editorial board for Journal of the American Medical Association

Copyright ©2018 by Matthew L. Chaney

I. Introduction

II. 1900-1904: Doctors, Football Officials Clash Over Brain Injuries

III. 1900-1902: Football Brutality and Call For ‘Open Game’

IV. 1903: Football Officials Tout New Rules, Sell New Helmets

V. 1876-1900: Roosevelt Embraces ‘Strenuous Life,’ Football

VI. 1901-1904: Football Fan and Father in The White House

VII. 1905: Football Tempest Explodes on Presidential Intervention

VIII. 1905: Football Tempest Subsides on Presidential Instruction

IX. 1912: Forgetting Football TBI and Disease For Posterity

By outset of 1910, the official promise of “debrutalized” football had not produced for America. Football appeal was spiking, drawing millions of spectators and enticing thousands of players for games at college stadiums, school fields, and local parks. “Enthusiast” presidents, among the famous, lent vogue to football fandom while the popular press made celebrities of college players. But the injury plague persisted, for inherent risks of the collision sport.

Former president Theodore Roosevelt may have “saved” football in 1905, per that blossoming story, but only from destructive infighting and scattered abolitionists.  Apparently no one could develop “Safer Football”—the headlined mission entrusted the game since Roosevelt’s intervention—and officials were acknowledging reality after years of failed policy.

“The majority of representatives want safer football,” said Amos Alonzo Stagg, University of Chicago head coach and member of the NCAA rules committee. “As to specific rules effecting this, it is impossible to say much. It’s easier to make attacks upon the rules… than to make the game safer.”

“Coach Stagg declares that there is a great demand for safer football,” intoned a newspaper commentator. “No doubt there is, and no doubt, too, there is as great a demand down below for a cooler hell.”

Another news writer faulted critics of football, for their “attitude” and nil help toward reform:

The game will have to be changed because of the fatalities and injuries of the last season [1909]. Many of the persons who are loudest in their demands to have alterations made, however, are those who cannot or do not suggest just what things should be done.

American “foot-ball” had blended rugby with soccer following the Civil War, and from 1880 onward officials struggled to control increasingly vicious field contact, along with managing hordes of player casualties. Various types of injury threatened football players in 1910, with doctors virtually powerless to treat lethal conditions such as brain hemorrhaging, spinal paralysis, and infection.

Traumatic brain injury [TBI] occurred routinely for the impacts and indirect “jars” above neckline. Players charged headlong into each other on every play, naturally and necessarily, ramming with forward leverage then slamming against ground. Thus countless brain injuries posed the greatest challenge to game organizers and medical professionals. Symptoms of TBI ranged in players from headache to hemorrhage, and diagnosis was sketchy with scant treatment option.

The so-called football experts had pursued several ideas to protect players, including reduction of head contact in blocking and tackling. Since the 1890s rules had been designed to foster “open play,” which many believed would lessen field risks. Colleges and schools were encouraged to station athletic trainers and doctors at sideline, and coaches tried to teach hitting with shoulders and chest.

For years the football experts had promoted helmets or “headgear,” armor designed largely by trainers and coaches to prevent trauma, foremost “concussion of the brain.”

Any positive results were negligible and public outcry rose anew in winter 1909-10. College rulemakers opened meetings in New York City amidst a flurry of football criticism, speculation for congressional hearings, and “radical changes” for high schools. Many game insiders said boys should not play until physical maturity around age 16.

“FOR SAFER FOOTBALL,” headlined The Washington Herald in the nation’s capital city, where prep coaches outlawed the forward pass and mandated penalty for tackling “above the shoulders.” Elsewhere, lawmakers, doctors, and clergymen sought bans of school and “pee wee” football.

Once again, the onus fell upon college coaches and administrators to act decisively, effectively.

“SAFER FOOTBALL AIM OF EXPERTS,” reminded a headline in North Dakota, accompanied by national report. “Protests have gone up from all parts of the country against the dangers of the game as now played.”

Brooklyn sports fan W.C. Taylor declared, “I want to make a football confession,” in his letter to The New York Times, continuing:

I have followed the ball and howled along the side lines with the noisiest enthusiasts, and waxed wrathful of the enemies of the game; but now, with a clearer and fairer view, although with no cooling whatsoever of my ‘sporting blood,’ I want to go on record as saying that football is the biggest fool of an institution in America as a sport.

But this angry fan wasn’t without hope for the game. His football criticism concluded in common fashion, denouncing “mass play,” the oft-heard scapegoat, and suggesting rule changes would fix the game.

1900-1904: Doctors, Football Officials Clash Over Brain Injuries

By turn of the 20th century, brain “concussion” was elemental of news events, including for criminal assaults and industrial accidents, according to an electronic review of historical newspapers by this investigator. Waves of TBI cases resulted from transportation mishaps involving horses, buggies, railroads, and the new motorcars.

Motorcyclists and aviators donned leather football helmets for protection while polo players wore cork headgear covered in cloth, like Dr. Livingstone in the jungle, hoping to soften their head-first falls from horseback.

Newspapers regularly reported sport TBI in the early 1900s, especially in boxing, football, baseball, and horse racing. Death in sport garnered biggest headlines, but concussed athletes in recovery were also newsworthy.

During football season, TBI incidents dotted the “sporting” pages, describing injury conditions of players such as dazed, confused, insensible, “knocked senseless,” “knocked out,” and concussed. Many cerebral casualties attempted returns to football with mixed results, documented in news.

“The concept of brain concussion had been traveling through common and medical knowledge for centuries,” science historian Emily A. Harrison, Harvard PhD, wrote for her article “The First Concussion Crisis: Head Injury and Evidence in Early American Football,” published by American Journal of Public Health in 2014. Harrison continued:

As early as the mid-16th century it had been defined as a blow resulting in escape of blood from ruptured tissue. By the early 19th century it was described as an “external violence” that caused “derangement of the brain.”

Medical knowledge of TBI advanced after the Civil War, driven by casualty studies of railroad accidents. Harrison noted:

[T]rain collisions, frequent in the late 19th century, had generated a large study population for observing long-term effects of concussions of the brain and spine. Physicians said that the new frequency for which they were observing concussions made the long-term behavioral consequences clinically visible—in children and adults.

The field collisions of American football—a sport that expanded throughout society coincident with rail transportation—produced numerous brain casualties as well. But the health problem was regarded indifferently by football  officials, perhaps in part for lack of known treatment. TBI was recognizable in symptoms, by coaches, trainers and doctors, but then basically a mystery.

The medical field and football clashed over cerebral injury, pitting conventional specialists versus coaches, trainers, team doctors, and injured players themselves.  Proper recovery time posed the prime question or sticking point.

Conservative medicine followed the Hippocratic ethic of Do no harm, exercising caution for cerebral disturbance of impact or shock, primarily a prescription of rest for days, weeks, even months. Dr. W.H. Earles, in a 1903 review for Journal of the American Medical Association [JAMA], wrote:

Clinical reports of competent observers, coupled with everyday experiences, have clearly demonstrated that blows or falls on the head may cause serious trouble, both present and prospective, without producing fracture to the skull wall.

Every case of recent head injury, however trivial it may appear, should, we believe, be treated with the greatest consideration, lest damage to hidden and important structures escape our attention, thus leaving a foundation for future trouble which too often is irreparable.

Turn-of-century medicine increasingly endorsed rest, careful recovery for brain-injury victims of all types. Doctors advised many concussed football players to sit out remainders of seasons, and some were told to quit entirely.

Contrarily, football personnel favored quick return for the brain-injured athlete, if side-lining him at all, and preferably under the authority of coaches and in-house technicians. Football trainers and hireling doctors were branching into their paradigm to become known as sports medicine, applying concepts beyond standard practice, and they assumed control in many casualty situations.

Such as the 1901 intercollegiate championship game between Harvard and Yale, before a record crowd of 37,000 at Cambridge, Mass. Both teams were affluent gridiron powers with trainers and doctors, and each saw a key player suffer TBI.

Harvard captain Dave Campbell, an All-American end, became “so groggy he did not see,” recounted The Washington Times, “but he did not leave the game.” Yale star John De Saulles was knocked unconscious while launching a “flying tackle” in goal-line defense. De Saulles experienced seizures on the sideline then revived briefly in a locker room, where reportedly “a doctor gave him an opiate and said that it was best for the boy to sleep it off.”

Following Harvard’s victory Saturday afternoon, doctors in Boston diagnosed De Saulles with a “slight attack of cerebral concussion” and admitted him to Massachusetts General Hospital. On Sunday morning, the “Yale football association” sent for De Saulles, intending to take him home with the team, but hospital officials refused to release the patient.

Doctors said De Saulles was “resting comfortably” and would recover within the week, “improving as rapidly as could be expected.” But by Monday night De Saulles was back in Connecticut, on campus, where headlines proclaimed “YALE HERO” was “Out of Danger”:

New Haven, Conn., Nov. 25.—(Special)—Johnny De Saulles, Yale’s quarterback, returned to his college home in the cloister tonight with his roommate, Arthur Barnwell, the Yale [baseball] center fielder, who took him from the Massachusetts General Hospital today and brought him here.

The non-bylined report quoted Yale football officials, but no doctor, in announcing De Saulles had recovered from brain trauma sustained in a body shot on the field:

De Saulles is still weak, but danger of permanent injury from cerebral concussion is over. Trainer Murphy says that it was a solar plexus blow received when De Saulles tackled Marshall which threw him into convulsions on the side lines after the game. Head Coach Stillman shares that opinion. De Saulles has been ordered to keep quiet for a few days.

No direct quote was attributed to Walter Camp, Yale coaching director, the football powerbroker and rules leader who presumably presided over the matter of De Saulles. Instead the writer noted Camp felt “exhausted by the strain of the last few weeks” and would depart on a vacation.

Social Darwinism was a dynamic here, spawning worry of an emasculated America, a male population ill-prepared to fight wars. Hysteric notions of manhood were popularized, along with symbols of ruggedness like Teddy Roosevelt and football. The macho-acting, tough-talking “T.R.” worshiped the gridiron, extolling it in news quotes and speeches. Roosevelt pushed his sons into the blood sport, although he never played as a student at Harvard.

“Manly” mindset often prevailed in cases of football injury, particularly TBI, the invisible wound. Concussive incidents could be ignored by everyone, including the injured players, although many could not help themselves.

During a college game in the Midwest, 1904, a badly concussed player resisted anyone’s assistance on the field, and eventually got his wish to manage himself, even if delirious. Illinois Wesleyan end Robert Ramage had absorbed a blow rendering him “dazed,” observed The Decatur Daily Review:

He was wholly out of his head at the field, and it took three men… to hold him and to keep him from running back into the game. … J.W. Race offered his carriage, and in it Ramage was taken to the hospital.

At the hotel Dr. E.J. Brown attended to the injured man. [The doctor] said that is was plain there had been concussion of the brain that had caused the dazed condition, but that as far as he was able to see there was no fracture of the skull, nor any cut on the scalp. There was a bad bruise on the leg.

Dr. Brown ordered the man to go to bed, and to stay at the hotel until the early morning train, instead of going home with the team at 6:15 [in the evening].

At about 6 o’clock [Ramage] presented himself at the hotel office and announced he was going to the station and home with the boys. No objection was made, and he went. He was rather weak, but was able to get to the depot, where he joined the team and was taken home.

Two days later, the local newspaper pronounced Ramage “recovered” without attributing medical authority for the information.

In the same week, Delaware, conflicting viewpoints surrounded the game injury of Vernon Gill, football captain for Maryland Agriculture College. Doctors at a Wilmington hospital said Gill suffered a concussion, but the senior administrator of his college disagreed. The Washington Times reported:

It was learned today… from Major Sylvester, president of the M.A.C., that the injured player is not suffering from concussion of the brain, and is in no serious danger. He was badly shaken up, but is expected back with the rest of his teammates in a few days.

But neural specialists conflicted with the college president on brain injury, which they regarded as serious for any symptoms. Undoubtedly, TBI in acute phase could alter the senses, mental state, personality and behavior.

Brain-injured football players could struggle with schoolwork, such as Yale end William J. MacMahon, who was advised by his personal physician to quit the sport and leave law studies for the semester in October of 1904. Yale coaches called the injury report a “rumor” and denied knowledge, but MacMahon did not return to football. [Later, both MacMahon and John De Saulles made national headlines as former Yale stars in stormy marriages and court proceedings. De Saulles was shot dead by his ex-wife in 1917, amid acrimony over child custody and adultery. MacMahon was criminally indicted for assaulting his second wife in 1928, beating her into critical condition with a flashlight during a car trip home from the Yale-Harvard game; the charge was dropped.]

Doctors knew concussion could spur violence in acute phase, at least, and football was blamed in part for a player’s suicide, according to this national report:

Janesville, Wis., Oct. 9—Leon Ayers, one of the brightest and most popular students in high school, committed suicide at his room in the Y.M.C.A. building last night with chloroform. It is thought that he was mentally unbalanced, the result of a fall from scaffolding last summer and subsequent injuries in a football game a week ago.

The Ayers case was included among football deaths for 1901, in lists compiled by newsmen.

Many specialists believed TBI could leave permanent damage, and concern for re-injury after a diagnosed concussion led to side-lining of football players around turn of the century. Princeton tackle Albert T. Baker had to leave the team in 1903 because of severe trauma. His hometown newspaper in Pennsylvania reported:

Baker was kicked on the head and was in the hospital with concussion of the brain for several weeks. Surgeons examined the wound and decided that it would be dangerous to allow him to play again this season, as a kick or blow on the same spot of the first injury would probably result fatally. Since that time he has not been allowed to play and has been coaching the Freshmen eleven of the school. The coaches speak favorably of Baker’s chances for next year and say he would have made the team this year but for his unfortunate injury.

Casualties of TBI were sometimes committed to mental wards, such as this schoolboy football player in 1903:

Columbus, Ohio, Nov. 16—Earl Neff, aged 16, was brought to the state hospital for the insane here Saturday from Kingston, Ohio. He is incurably crazed from injuries received in a game of football. He sustained concussion of the brain. He has a mania for studying electricity, in which subject he was interested before the accident.

JAMA editors likened football risks to warfare, declaring, “To be a cripple or lunatic for life is paying high for athletic emulation,” and courts were recognizing long-term TBI affliction from accidents outside sport. A former Purdue player injured in a wreck of the team train sued the railroad over permanent injuries, including brain damage that impaired his eyesight, hearing, memory, and reasoning while paralyzing him on the ride side. The judge awarded him $10,000 compensation. Elsewhere, a young man died years after a brain injury in football. A report stated:

Chicago, Oct. 11 [1902]—Max Henry Fleischer is dead as a result of an injury received in a football game six years ago. Until two months ago Fleischer did not know of [his condition], but as soon as his father learned of it he had an examination made which showed that the young man’s skull was depressed. The skull was trepanned [surgically opened], revealing a diseased condition of the brain.

During the last six years Fleischer had suffered from severe headaches. Several times he was found unconscious. When the accident occurred Fleischer was 15 years old and was anxious to get a place on the regular football team at school. He was kicked on the head and picked up in a dazed condition, but he exacted a promise from his playmates not to talk of the accident for fear his mother would not allow him to play anymore.

While medical science lacked a smoking gun to prove permanent cerebral damage of football collisions, circumstantial evidence abounded. Harvard president Charles Eliot, arch enemy of football, proclaimed the game was a health menace. In February 1905, Eliot stated, “Sprains, concussions of the brain and injuries to bones are apt to leave behind them permanent weaknesses, which in later life become troublesome.”

1900-1902: Football Brutality and Call For ‘Open Game’

When football controversy struck again in the early 1900s, brutality and injuries were issues, but spectators complained chiefly for the plodding “mass” formations that obscured ball-carriers, like blocking “wedges” and scrums. Fans clamored for a completely “open game” of running and forward passing; player protection was a minor concern.

Even university presidents, football’s notorious adversaries, typically advocated an open format to ensure the game’s survival. The ballyhooed rules revision of 1894 had failed to end deadly gang blocking, other than the 10-man “flying wedge,” and subsequent tinkering with code left loopholes for mass offense.

Human wedges or walls still flourished on the field. The ploy known as “guards back” was standard, shifting two offensive linemen into the backfield before center snap for an early charge for trampling defenders. And Glenn “Pop” Warner, coaching “genius” of the Carlisle Indian School, designed the “end-over” formation, touted as “flying interference within the rules” for erasing defense on outside runs.

Public backlash rose during football season 1902 against mass play, coaching tactics, and the rules committee steered by Walter Camp at Yale. Player deaths caused tension, and a Presbyterian synod in Tennessee condemned football; the church had begun by denouncing bullfighting but that was dropped as “not being on par with football.”

The gridiron maw proved mortal for a player of a Baptist college in its opening game: “Harry Jordan of Sioux Falls, S.D., became mixed up in a mass play and was so severely injured that he died soon after,” The St. Louis Republic reported.

Defensive linemen also formed walls, evidenced in the ruthless smashing of a young man who tried to make a town team in Pennsylvania. “KILLED AT FOOTBALL,” headlines announced, continuing, “Players Piled on One of Their Number, Crushing Out His Life.” The national report followed:

Sharon, Pa., Oct. 21—During a practice game of football at Transfer yesterday, William Martin, 21 years old, sustained injuries that resulted in his death a few hours later. Martin was playing center on a scrub team, and when the ball was [snapped to quarterback] he was carried backward for some distance, and then hurled to the ground with great violence. The opposing players piled on him… Physicians were summoned. They stated that Martin had sustained internal injuries and was suffering from concussion of the brain. He did not regain consciousness.

Martin’s violent brain injury was nevertheless ruled “an accident” by local officials, and he was among at least 10 football deaths in 1902. The grid season’s survivor casualties also included “a number of concussions,” reportedly. In Missouri, a lineman for Central College “bore the brunt of many [mass] attacks and played after he should have been taken out,” a newspaper declared. “He was helped off the field in a dazed condition and afterward examined by a physician, who found him suffering from concussion of the brain.”

Criticism overtook game officials once again. “RULES MUST CHANGE,” declared the headline over a news report from the East:

Syracuse, N.Y., Nov. 24—Chancellor James R. Day of Syracuse University caused a sensation in the chapel by stating that unless the football rules are radically changed so as to abolish mass plays, he would go before the board of trustees and ask them to disband the team at Syracuse. He said:

“I have always supported football, but the time has come when I find it difficult to defend the game. When, before the season is two-thirds over, half the members of a team have been in the hospital and some of them compelled to leave the game permanently, when men have been killed throughout the country and scores upon scores have been maimed, there must be something wrong with the game.”

The Journal of the American Medical Association [JAMA], premier medical publication, ripped football rulemakers for play “made absolutely murderous at times. Among the serious casualties of the game this year we have fractured skulls, injured spines, brain injuries resulting in insanity, as well as broken legs, ribs, collar-bones, etc.” Atlantic Monthly noted football presented mortal risks “justified only in professions like fire-protection, life-saving, sea-faring and railroading.”

New York Independent editors chided universities for allowing football “associations” of young men to rule campuses and besmirch educational mission with their blood sport:

Why should the policy of universities in so important a matter be left to the dictation of the undergraduates [players] and overenthusiastic athletic graduates [coaches]? … There needs to be careful discrimination made by competent authorities between what is essential and what is both non-essential and injurious in the game.

Competent or not, the same insider committee of football “experts”—coaches, a referee, game-friendly professors—were tasked with overhauling the rules yet another time. But outside intervention was possible, sources told The New York Sun, which reported:

Well-informed persons say that the Intercollegiate Football Rules Committee will have to abolish mass plays from the gridiron before the season of 1903 begins. If the committee does not do so on its own initiative, the presidents and faculty athletic authorities of many of the big universities will, it is said, will take up the matter and deal with it… Several of the college presidents have been severely outspoken in their disfavor of existing conditions. … President [Woodrow] Wilson of Princeton has… said that the game would have to be altered if it is to continue to have a place on Princeton’s calendar of sports.

The St. Louis Republic declared the rules committee must redesign football: “For many seasons the cry of the general public has been for a game where there was more open work, that is, more passing, kicking, and playing in the broken field.”

Vanguards of the status quo held their ground. They defended football as-is and particularly the rules encouraging mass formations, such as a first down for advancing five yards and the ban on forward passing and quarterback runs. This group known as the football “conservatives”—with Walter Camp at top—blamed existing open play for terrible injuries, by creating fiercer collisions of faster-moving athletes.

Players faced less risk when “bunched in scrimmages,” remarked Julian Curtiss, a designer of football helmets and managing partner for A.G. Spalding athletic equipment in New York City. “Those who are clamoring for more open play should bear in mind that there are more injuries.” Curtiss, an equipment magnate and associate of Camp, was a former Yale football player who promoted his alma mater’s games in New York with Harvard and Princeton, events generating enormous crowds and lucrative profit for grid associations at each university. Curtiss told a New York writer that 30,000 paying customers for a game “strikes me as pretty good evidence that the present style of [mass] play is what the spectators like to see.”

Spalding sponsored the annual football rulebook written by Camp, old friend of Curtiss in New Haven, among commercial ventures the company enjoyed with the sport icon and his Yale athletic association. Camp claimed his rules committee had already opened-up football, well enough. Camp echoed Curtiss in contending open play was risky and that popular opinion favored mass play, upon which peerless Yale football was founded. In Camp’s statement disseminated by newspapers, introducing him as “the eminent authority” of football, he wrote:

Just at this time is transpiring one of the periodically occurring movements against the game as it stands. Football, wherever played, has always been a subject for critics. … Changes are not advocated now solely for the sake of avoiding injury, but rather in order to make the game more interesting to spectators. … There is no doubt that the men who are most interested in the sport of football are especially desirous of seeing it kept up to its present interest, both to player and spectator; that as far as possible the liability of injury be eliminated; and, finally, that the ethos of the game be kept as high as possible.

1903: Football Officials Tout New Rules, Sell New Helmets

Walter Camp discussed football risk, manhood, and ethics for an address of the Yale Club in Chicago during February 1903, as the game drew blame for gambling among college students. “There is no increase in the so-called evils of football,” Camp reassured alumni and boosters. Gambling on campus, he argued, was modeled after beloved poker play and more games of chance, like lotteries to fund construction of churches and university buildings.

“Then they want the dangers eliminated from football,” Camp said, indicating rulemakers felt besieged by complaints while lacking fresh ideas for football safety. “It would be agreeable to schoolmasters and parents, probably, if we could devise sports which would not contain any elements of danger, but it cannot be done.”

Technology had already failed to reduce football’s most devastating risk, brain trauma, through unsuccessful “headgear” models produced by game officials. For years trainers and coaches had designed helmets they claimed would prevent “concussion of the brain” ranging from headaches to hemorrhaging, along with skull fracture.

Trainers and coaches controlled the boom business of football equipment and outfitting, in concert with partners like Curtiss at Spalding. While they aimed to protect players, the head armor was counterproductive, often spurring vicious colliding. A player felt safe in a helmet but also emboldened to hit head-on or absorb blows above the neck, particularly for building speed and forward leverage in open-field ramming.

During the 1890s the development of effective anti-TBI material proved elusive. Early headgear or “harness” included rubber and cowhide forms for injured players at Princeton and Kansas, but no protection resulted. Then hard leather helmets proliferated, firm as a boot sole, only to cause trouble.

In 1900 the influential Yale coaches decried “heavy leather helmets which are now worn by nearly all the players, especially the end rushers,” a reporter wrote from New Haven. “The ends dive headlong at the backs… Cook, Sharp and Hale, the three most powerful backs at Yale, are out of the game at present, largely because of injuries received in this way.”

It was likely Camp who channeled the following message for football at-large, through the news writer: “There is no rule forbidding… the [sole] leather helmets, but Yale men would favor a new football rule making it illegal to wear that article of football armor.” Left unsaid was Camp’s buddy at Spalding equipment, Yale alumnus Julian Curtiss, whose pet project was a “pneumatic” football helmet.

Another newspaper story head-lined Yale in its “crusade” against leather headgear, with support from the University of Pennsylvania. The report also dropped the unattributed, unproven assertion that “a good pneumatic headpiece distributes the force of a blow over the entire head instead of centering it on one spot.”

“Princeton coaches, on the other hand, favor all kinds of helmets,” the report continued. “They argue that headpieces are necessary because the injuries to the head are generally of a far more lasting and serious nature than those received in other parts of the body.”

Trainers announced new leather designs at the universities of Illinois and Michigan, and more joined the engineering race for a protective football helmet—and riches. “The gear that has caused the most experiment and thought is that for the head,” a reporter declared from the Midwest in 1901. But no one produced the dream helmet and brain trauma continued unabated in field collisions.

Officials debated potential policy on headgear and other equipment throughout the football season of 1902. Mass play preoccupied critics, and at that point the football rulemakers, or Camp primarily, determined time was right for blaming injuries on heavy leather helmets. So the headgear problem made news again: Upcoming rules meetings would involve “a determined crusade against the armor-bearing tendencies of the game,” a report announced on Jan. 4, 1903, citing anonymous inside information. “Perhaps the worst phase of the armor question is the subject of hard leather.” A rigid helmet encouraged a player to “literally ram his opponent,” the text stated, continuing:

When these are tied on there is a dome-shaped skull covering as hard as steel… The climax came during last season, when a prominent supporter of the game came across a New England schoolboy who had a [sole leather] helmet shaped to a point; a dull one, but a point, nevertheless. Then the gravity of the situation came home to the observer, who is a member of the Rules Committee, and it is safe to predict that there will be some strenuous reform urged at the next meeting.

The committee finalized rule revisions by summertime. Camp led officials in announcing “less dangerous” and exciting football for the 1903 season. Indeed, fans could compare mass play and open play since the game field had been divided into zones for both. The mass-play format stood intact from each 25-yard mark to goal line, allowing momentum formations and push-pull assistance for a ball-carrier. In the open zone, 50 yards in midfield set between the 25-yard marks, the quarterback could carry the ball if he crossed scrimmage beyond five yards either side of the snap spot. Likewise in the open zone, seven men were required on the line for each snap. The committee did not address forward passing.

Additionally, the rule-makers acted on headgear and body padding, banning sole leather. Soft leather remained sanctioned by rules, and Spalding’s Julian Curtiss stood poised to fill the helmet vacuum with his air-cushioned model featuring a pneumatic crown.

Most opportune for Spalding in the football preseason—and entirely set up—the company was able to release its sponsored press run of college rulebooks in step with advertising and news planting that touted its new helmet. The business synergy of timing new field code with equipment production was no coincidence, but merely arranged between Camp and Curtiss, according to historical news and Camp’s personal papers.

“When necessary, Curtiss had no qualms about asking Camp’s predictions on rule changes that might affect Spalding equipment such as the ‘head harness,’ ” Stephen Hardy wrote for his essay Entrepreneurs, Structures, and the Sportgeist.

“Spalding executive Julian Curtiss found his friendship with Camp beneficial when it came to selling his expanding equipment lines,” author Julie Des Jardins wrote in her book Walter Camp: Football and The Modern Man, continuing:

When [Curtiss] developed a new shin guard, for instance, he showed it to his friend to make sure it conformed to Rule Three, Section Three of the football code, which forbade the wearing of “projecting, metallic, or hard substances.” Spalding held off on production of [pneumatic] head harnesses in 1902 until Camp could influence legislation on protective headgear. The sporting goods company marketed to casual players and high school leagues too, since many of them conformed to IFA guidelines and looked to the college game for guidance. In return, Camp was able to outfit Yale athletes at a discounted rate, and Curtiss offered him first dibs on the newest golf equipment, his-and-her bicycles, and skates and sleds for the kids.

Another football figure at Yale was not beholden to Curtiss, however, especially in open competition for developing the anti-TBI helmet, holy grail of football equipment. Mike Murphy, Yale’s famed athletic trainer and coach—who was prone to switch jobs for better opportunity, including multiple stints with Camp at New Haven—focused his skill for equipment design entirely on football headgear in August 1903. And Murphy wouldn’t endorse Yale’s use of the new Spalding piece.

“Every one of us interested in football is trying to solve the problem…,” Murphy told a reporter, “and get something pliable and yet which will offer sufficient protection to the men. There ought to be, under the circumstances, a good assortment of headgear from which to select just the one we need.” Murphy saw promise in a few materials.  “Felt is a good protector and is not too hard to use. Rubber heads may be tried.”

But Spalding’s promotional blitz was rolling, drowning voices like Murphy, and “pneumatic” headgear was sudden buzzword of the game. Teams were already receiving Spalding deliveries, from Cornell University in New York to Drury College in Missouri. Rules czar Camp, for his part, regularly mentioned the Spalding design, and the popular press chimed in unquestioningly. “The most important device is for keeping the brains of the football player from spilling over the field of battle at inopportune times,” a columnist opined, praising Spalding’s contraption. “This wonderfully constructed machine is pneumatic.”

Newspaper editors reprinted Spalding releases verbatim. A nationally publicized item stated:

The rules committee… passed a rule that if head protectors were worn they should no longer be made of sole leather, papier mache or other hard and unyielding material, and all other devices for protectors must be so arranged and padded as, in the opinion of the umpire, to be without danger to other players.

To conform to this rule Spalding’s pneumatic head harness has been designed and it is certainly one of the greatest improvements in the players’ equipment… a pneumatic crown sufficient to afford absolute protection. Ventilation is provided through heavy felt. Many trainers and players from leading colleges have examined this head harness and give it their unqualified approval.

Following football reform and conflicts of interest, the games began in late September, 1903, and field action drew scrutiny for the promises of rulemakers and associates. They garnered praise for enhancing the entertainment factor. An uptick in the open style was observable, according to reviews, and media celebrated scoring when major universities unloaded on smaller schools.

After Michigan won 79-0 over Beloit, the little college lost worse next week at Wisconsin, 87-0, and the scores lit up headlines for newspapers and magazines. “BELOIT IS SNOWED UNDER” and “Crowd Goes Wild,” heralded a Chicago Tribune report from the Badger State, continuing:

Madison, Wis., Oct. 17—(Special)—Wisconsin went Michigan one touchdown better here today, defeating Beloit by a score of 87 to 0. The speed and team work shown by Wisconsin came as a big surprise to the most enthusiastic admirers, and hopes for a championship team are high in Madison tonight.

Bain made the first touchdown off tackle after one-and-a-half minutes’ play. Line bucks for short, steady gains carried the ball over the second score, and then end runs and line smashes were alternated in rapid succession until the [visiting] Congregationalists were literally swept off their feet. …

The crowd of 1,200 rooters early in the second half began calling for a score of 80, [and] when that point was reached their enthusiasm was without bounds.

Famed sports columnist Ralph D. Paine detected both positives and negatives in retreaded football, writing for The Illustrated Sporting News:

The “new football rules”… are deserving of commendation in certain ways, after actual test on a hundred fields in the first month of the season. It has been already demonstrated, however, that they are not revolutionary, that they are hardly to be called sensational, and that football is the “same old game.” …

As for the spectator, it is true that the play is more easily followed than formerly. In midfield, from the average point of vantage, it is possible to see who takes the ball from the quarterback, whither the run is directed, and to follow the runner until he is tackled. This is a distinct gain over the old-style scrimmage [conducted from 25-yard lines to goal lines] where, except when the ball is kicked or fumbled, the onlooker cannot tell whether there is a football, no ball, or an old high hat, as the bone of furious contention.

As for less violence, injury reduction, Paine saw no evidence. “Reports of rough play are as frequent as they were last year,” he surmised.

New helmet policy and complementary product had no apparent effect. The soft pneumatic headgear accomplished sales but nothing else beyond a curious appearance, strapped like a “beehive” atop a player. And while a  written rule banned heavy leather from college football, real-time enforcement was problematic, especially for inspecting the array of helmets, homemade and manufactured, brought onto game fields. Responsibility remained with umpires for weeding out illicit equipment, any type, and allegations persisted of incompetence for the task.

Some coaches swore off all headgear as dangerous, trying to expunge it from their programs, including A.A. Stagg at the University of Chicago. But “concussion” casualties remained common of football news from all levels, sandlot, school, club and college. And multiple cases beset Stagg’s team, compelling him to reissue headgear for brain-injured players. The Chicago Daily News reported:

Kirby, the short, stocky little halfback, is forced to adopt the helmet. He had his head severely bruised in one of the early scrimmages and later received a jolt in one of the practice games which put him out of the contest. … It may be that [Stagg’s] hasty discarding of almost all protective armor will prove premature, and that the Maroons will be forced to take up again the shin guards, nose guards and helmets, which they have thrown away.

So-called head protection, rigid or otherwise, did not shield a school team in Kansas. During a game at Leavenworth, the players of Olathe High were “trampled on, kicked, and rubbed in the dirt,” according to The Leavenworth Times, which detailed TBI incidents on the field and followup treatment:

No one used to the clean kind of foot ball being put up by the local team would have anticipated the serious accidents which befell three of the Olathe players in yesterday’s game. Captain Harland Lanter, left guard, and Fred Hill, left half-back, were carried from the field unconscious and George Russell, right half, was early disabled by a sprained ankle. Of the three accidents Lanter’s was the most serious.

After twenty minutes’ play in the first half Olathe, realizing the futility of her efforts to crush the heavy Leavenworth line, fell back on the third down and punted. As the team swept down the field those on the side lines saw Lanter, standing in his tracks, grasp convulsively at his headgear and then fall. When persons from the side lines ran to him he was losing consciousness and lapsed into a… state in which he walked about the field and even played out the half before his men were brought to a realization of the fact that his injuries were of a dangerous nature.

He was taken from the field at the end of the half. Though still able to walk he knew nothing of his surroundings. Taken to the grand stand and wrapped in blankets he soon lost consciousness entirely. Only after he had been taken to the Imperial hotel in an ambulance did he regain reason. He was unconscious for two hours. …

Lanter was immediately taken care of by Drs. Suwalski, Shoyer and Lane, who were spectators at the game. A careful examination at the hotel last evening showed that Lanter had received a severe shock near the base of the brain on the left side. He told that he had been injured in the same spot at Fort Scott a year ago and he was not surprised at a recurrence. Hill’s injury resulted from falling and striking his forehead violently.

In both cases slight concussions of the brain resulted. Hill was able to leave town on the 6:30 o’clock [train] last evening but Lanter is still in this city in charge of his coach. It was thought advisable for him to rest after the shock before he undertook a journey.

Football death numbers compiled from news accounts, however faulty, suggested no decrease on the playing fields in 1903. The reports, with differing fatality totals, began appearing at season’s end around Thanksgiving. A Philadelphia news group announced at least 17 deaths from football, noting the actual number, impossible to determine, “probably would far exceed this number.” The American Medical Association corroborated: “During the football season just passed, 35 deaths occurred and over 500 severe accidents happened to players of football,” a report stated. “How many of those suffering from severe accidents died afterward cannot be ascertained, but, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, the number cannot be less than 50.”

The Atlanta Constitution commented as though speaking of warfare: “The old question as to whether football is worth the while is being seriously discussed all over the country again just as another football season has come to an end, and people are beginning to figure up the losses of the season in killed and wounded.”

1876-1900: Roosevelt Embraces ‘Strenuous Life,’ Football

Almost anything seemed possible in America at beginning of the 20th century, including ideas for “safe and sane football.” And when football “brutality” was condemned by the people’s president, Theodore Roosevelt, successful game reform appeared imminent.

Many Americans felt personal connection to the president, simply calling him “T.R” or “Teddy.” Writers regaled the public with heartwarming stories on this heroic character of The Strenuous Life, the theme he hammered in speeches. And Roosevelt figuratively wrapped himself in football, its powerful meanings, as another manhood badge he wore along with those of cowboy, mighty hunter, war hero, explorer, boxer, wrestler, and trust buster.

“Theodore Roosevelt… promoted the strenuous life in myriad ways but granted football a conspicuously important role,” observed cultural analyst Michael Oriard in 1993, an English professor and former NFL player. “Roosevelt tied football to the development of character but also to qualities of bodily hardihood and courage in the face of physical danger that were necessary for both ‘the individual and the race.’ ”

But Roosevelt was never a football player himself, like the celebrity athletes he fawned over, recruited to surround him. He just seemed to have been a football player. This pugnacious figure was seen and heard around the sport from outset of his political career. Roosevelt positioned himself as gallant defender of football, against unjust attack, a political role he assumed before the presidency.

Roosevelt first encountered football spectacle as a Harvard freshman in 1876. He was 18, a hearty fitness buff, but weighed only 135 pounds and wore eyeglasses. Roosevelt later stated that poor eyesight prevented his playing the game. Young Teddy became a football fan instead, sought friends in players, and secured a crimson Harvard game jersey he donned for campus workouts.

When the Harvard “eleven” lost 1-0 to Yale, on a Hail Mary dropkick at the victor’s home field, student Roosevelt rued defeat and alleged dirty tricks. “I am sorry to say we were beaten, principally because our opponents played very foul,” Teddy wrote to his mother in Manhattan.

In the 1890s college football faced its concerted abolition threat, and Roosevelt rushed to the fore, vociferously supporting the game and officials in his conversations, letters, and speeches. Roosevelt’s opinion was delivered with gusto and carried weight, coming from this rising public servant, native of New York City. He derided football critics as wimps and resented their leader—in charge at Roosevelt’s alma mater, no less—Harvard president Charles W. Eliot.

“In Roosevelt’s opinion, the foes of football were wrongheaded idealists who simply refused to accept the risks that are attached to virtually any human endeavor,” wrote John J. Miller, modern author of The Big Scrum: How Teddy Roosevelt Saved Football:

They threatened to feminize an entire generation. At stake was nothing less than the future of the United States: On the threshold of a new century, would the country seize its historic destiny and grow into a world power or would it stop short of this accomplishment because it had turned out, in Roosevelt’s words, “mollycoddles instead of vigorous men”?

Roosevelt addressed the football team at Cambridge in 1896, “a most enthusiastic audience of Harvard men,” reported The Crimson. Roosevelt told the players: “It is not the critic that we want… it is the hard worker, the man who has the cause at heart, who has the fighting spirit and who feels his veins thrill when Harvard scores a goal. That is the man we need. Every individual fellow owes a debt of gratitude to a man who has the qualities of mind and body to make the team and who plays for Harvard.”

Roosevelt relished speaking to Harvard players and stayed mindful of football when appointed as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, by President William McKinley in 1897. Roosevelt helped restore football games between Navy and West Point, and tabbed college players for his “Rough Riders” volunteer regiment—hyped to extreme by the press—in America’s short military conflict with Spain at Cuba in 1898. Miller wrote:

On July 1, outside the city of Santiago, Roosevelt led his dismounted men in the Battle of San Jan Hill. His famous charge up Kettle Hill drove Spanish soldiers from the summit. Roosevelt called it his “crowded hour.” It secured his place as a national hero. Although Roosevelt might have remained safely to the rear of his charging soldiers, he faced open fire and led them to the top of the hill.

Roosevelt returned home a celebrity, in time to run for New York governor and win convincingly. Harvard football enjoyed a banner year, too, defeating Yale for the national championship and a perfect 11-0 record. The Harvard alumni threw a lavish banquet in Boston before Christmas, hosting a crowd of 500 at the American House hotel, to fete the football champions and the university’s latest figure of fame, Roosevelt. When T.R. was introduced, the room erupted. “It was five minutes before Colonel Roosevelt could speak,” a report noted, continuing:

When the tumult had partly subsided, he said: “Mr. Toastmaster and Fellow Harvard Men. This has been a good year for Harvard. The team won and I won myself, and at the present moment I am somewhat in doubt as to which was the greater achievement.”

“I realize that the team understands and appreciates the keen personal interest taken in it by Harvard’s old graduates and undergraduates. But what I am proudest of is the fact that the Harvard team played liked gentlemen and won like gentlemen. If I ever go to war again, let me have such men as they who comprised the Harvard team of this year behind me.”

Roosevelt would not return to war; he was on fast track to the White House, named as McKinley’s vice-presidential running mate for 1900. McKinley won reelection but was shot by an assassin and died, and Roosevelt was sworn in as the 25th American president in September 1901, history’s youngest at age 42.

1901-1904: Football Fan and Father in The White House

President Theodore Roosevelt was a social reformer, the buster of business monopolies, the “Big Stick” protector of workers and consumers. In historic fights from the White House, Roosevelt took on financier J.P. Morgan, the railroads, meatpacking and coal mining. And he religiously followed football and attended games, unlike presidents before him.

American football had its first fan president, a most powerful ally, which a congressman discovered awkwardly soon after Roosevelt took office. Rep. Frank Wachter of Maryland, a Republican like the president, attacked “government football” at West Point and the Naval Academy in Annapolis. Citing dangers, Wachter argued “that men who are to be officers in the Army and Navy should not subject themselves to possible injury in such rough and tumble playing as the gridiron.”

Wachter urged Congress to end football games between West Point and Navy—but Teddy Roosevelt’s shadow loomed, suddenly. “Congressman Wachter… was surprised that the President should attend the recent Army and Navy game,” commented The Richmond Dispatch, wryly adding: “[Wachter] proposes a joint resolution prohibiting… the annual contest between the West Point and Annapolis elevens, but doesn’t he, in planning this action, himself undertake a bold and interesting tackle?”

The congressman denied criticizing the president over the Army-Navy game. “He declares that he has been misunderstood in this respect, and that in commenting upon the gridiron has never stated that Mr. Roosevelt acted with impropriety in witnessing the exhibition,” reported The Washington Times.

Rep. Wachter caved and took his flogging, ceasing talk of congressional action on football as pressmen mocked him and a group of “anxious mothers.” The women had pledged allegiance to the young politician “if he would get a law through Congress not only prohibiting the Army and Navy game, but also putting a stop to football everywhere in the country,” reported The Philadelphia Press, which continued:

 And it can be taken for granted that so long as there is a man in the White House who is willing to travel 130 miles to see a game, sit two hours in a November atmosphere while the game lasts and then travel 130 miles back to Washington again—so long as that condition lasts, there will be no presidential signature put to an anti-football bill. Congressman Wachter doubtless informed himself as to that fact and then withdrew to the sideline and let the game to go on as before.

But terrible casualties would continue with the game, predictably, occurring foremost among players at the Naval Academy in Wachter’s district—and throughout Roosevelt’s presidency. Navy doctors of the decade, in fact, would advance surgical practice through their procedures on injured football players, attempting to treat catastrophic trauma cases of the brain and spine. [The Annapolis academy has ultimately led American football in player fatalities reported publicly since 1900, with eight deaths that include two ensigns from “sandlot” games on campus, from among historical newsprint available to this reviewer through electronic search.]

Meanwhile, Roosevelt had to deal directly with a fretting football mother: His wife, Edith Roosevelt, the First Lady who avoided public comment on any matter. As newsmen ridiculed Rep. Wachter and the anti-football mothers at Christmas 1901, Edith was privately disturbed over game injuries of her eldest son, Theodore, Jr., at a boarding school in Massachusetts.  “Ted” had suffered a fractured collarbone and broken front tooth. Therefore President Roosevelt contacted the school headmaster and close friend Endicott Peabody, founder of Groton preparatory academy in Massachusetts, to sheepishly question his son’s football situation. Roosevelt wrote:

White House, Jan. 4, 1902

Dear Cotty:

Pray do not think me grown timid in my old age until you read this note through. Ted would have a fit if he knew I were writing it, as I found that by having written you about his collar-bone he was rendered very uncomfortable. In addition to Ted’s collar-bone, the dentist tells me that he has killed one front tooth in foot ball, and that tooth will get black. Now I don’t care a rap for an accident in itself, but Ted is only fourteen and I am afraid if he goes on like this he will get battered out before he can play in college.

Roosevelt was apparently aware of a growing sentiment within football, that players merely had shelf life for the gladiatorial sport, regardless of individual will and fitness. Specifically, physical maturity was required to even step on a football field. Thus many football personnel believed the game wrong for typical schoolboys, a philosophy voiced regularly by college coaches, trainers and players.

Roosevelt in private letters seemed conflicted about prep football for his sons Ted and Kermit—Mrs. Roosevelt struggled with it, most assuredly. The president, drawing on opinion from buddy college players, implied to Peabody that his son should not face “heavy boys” in football:

Last night a Groton graduate, one of the Harvard substitutes, told me of his own accord that he thought it had been a mistake for Ted to play against heavy boys so much this year. I do not know whether he knows anything about it or not, but De Saulles, the Yale quarterback, who was there, added that he thought it was a pity a young boy should get so battered up, if it came from playing larger ones, as it might interfere with other playing later. Now all this may be merely a rumor, and Ted may not have been playing against heavier boys, but I thought I would write you about it anyway.

Faithfully yours,

Theodore Roosevelt

The president talked differently in public, however, heartily endorsing football for boys including his own. In public Roosevelt scoffed at casualty reports about football, calling the numbers overblown, declaring there were no victims among the disabled and dead. Indeed, he regularly advocated athletic injury for galvanizing a “muscular Christian,” within the movement of so-called vigorous men who played fair and square in physical conquest. “It seems to me that a good rule for life is one borrowed from the football field…,” Roosevelt would chime in familiar tone, leading an expectant audience to his famed kicker: “Don’t flinch, don’t foul, hit the line hard!” T.R. used the pet slogan in autographs for fans and apparently indulged news stories falsely claiming he had played football for Harvard while courageously defying injury; none of the tales was corrected.

Theodore did relay Edith’s darkest fear for their football sons—spinal paralysis leading to death—in his public and private communication. But he resorted to gallows humor, poor joking peculiar to this game of bad outcomes, football. “Now do not break your neck unless you esteem it really necessary,” he wrote to Ted at Groton. “About arms and legs I am no less particular, although on the whole I prefer that even they should be kept reasonably whole.”

Ted was a tough boy but both the president and schoolmaster worried of his attempt to make the varsity football team in 1903. “Unfortunately he is light,” Peabody informed Roosevelt, “and when he tackles these big chaps, and goes down under them, I expect to find him squashed!” Peabody told coaches he had to write the president before allowing Ted to play on varsity, while the boy protested and likewise wrote his father.

Upon letters reaching the White House, Theodore and Edith discussed the problem before he penned a long reply to Ted, revealing their concern.

White House, Oct. 4, 1903


In spite of the “Hurry! Hurry!” on the outside of your envelope, I did not like to act until I had consulted Mother and thought the matter over; and to be frank with you, old fellow, I am by no means sure that I am doing [the] right [thing] now. If it were not that I feel you will be so bitterly disappointed, I would strongly advocate your acquiescing in the decision to leave you off the [varsity] second squad this year. I am proud of your pluck, and I greatly admire football—though it was not a game I was ever able to play myself, my qualities resembling Kermit’s rather than yours. But the very things that make it a good game make it a rough game, and there is always the chance of your being laid up. Now, I should not in the least object to your being laid up for a season if you were striving for something worth while, to get on the Groton school team, for instance, or on your class team when you entered Harvard—for of course I don’t think you will have the weight to entitle you to try for the [college varsity as a freshman]. But I am no means sure that it is worth your while to run the risk of being laid up for the sake of playing in the second squad when you are a fourth former [prep junior], instead of when you are a fifth former [senior]. I do not know that the risk is balanced by the reward. However, I have told the Rector [Peabody] that as you feel so strongly about it, I think that the chance of your damaging yourself in body is outweighed by the possibility of bitterness in spirit if you could not play. …in this case I am uncertain, and I shall give you the benefit of the doubt.

I am delighted to have you play football. I believe in rough, manly sports. But I do not believe in them if they degenerate into the sole end of any one’s existence. I don’t want you to sacrifice standing well in your studies to any over-athleticism… Athletic proficiency is a mighty good servant, and like so many other good servants, a mighty bad master. … I am glad you should play football; I am glad that you should box; I am glad that you should ride and shoot and walk and row as well as you do. I should be very sorry if you did not do these things. But don’t even get into the frame of mind which regards these things as constituting the end to which all your energies must be devoted, or even the major portion of your energies.

Ted grasped his parents’ wish and agreed to play on Groton’s “third eleven” as a junior. Roosevelt, heartened, immediately wrote his son:

White House, Oct. 11, 1903


I have received letters from the Rector [Peabody], from [football coach] Mr. Woods, and [coach] Mr Billings. They all say that you should play on the third squad. This was my first, and as I am convinced, my real judgment in the case. If you get smashed up now in a serious way it may prevent your playing later. … I think it a little silly to run any imminent risk of a serious smash simply to play on the second squad instead of the third.

But Theodore Junior could not avoid injury in jayvee football either, suffering a fractured nose, with infection risk, to end his season. The president wrote him: “I am interested in your broken nose, and am glad the football season has come to an end as far as you are concerned.” Trying to change subject, Roosevelt wrote of other topics bu still couldn’t avoid gridiron chat for his son. “Did you ever know anything more disgraceful than Harvard’s record in football this year?”

The Harvard team itself heard next from the alumni commander in chief, through his letter of “advice and warning” addressed to the losing coach, John Cranston. “I shall feel more than surprise if they do not go on the field the day of the Yale game with a determination to risk their necks rather than see the Yale team win,” Roosevelt wrote, as a leader of both the free world and Harvard’s athletic booster organization.

Young Kermit at Groton, meanwhile, received the T.R. football message of fatherly concern, restraint. “I am glad you seem to be doing so well in football,” the president wrote the second son, “but I would rather you were on a lower eleven. I wouldn’t much care to have you on one of the upper eleven, where the boys may be too big and heavy for you. So I hope you have been reduced [demoted]!”

1905: Football Tempest Explodes on Presidential Intervention

Theodore Roosevelt reached his zenith of popularity in 1905, beginning his second presidential term after a landslide victory in the general election. As domestic and foreign issues filled his agenda in the Oval Office, tackle football remained a personal affection that he utilized for public image as well.

Football buddies were draped about Roosevelt for his March inauguration in Washington. Rough Riders on horseback flanked his carriage in parade, waving to the crowd, themselves adoringly headlined as a “Motley Collection of Cowboys, Society Leaders, Gun-Fighters and College Football Players.”

Harvard alumni discussed T.R. for someday replacing Charles Eliot as president of the university, particularly for building a football program to beat Yale. “The Rough Rider would certainly be able to organize an impregnable football team,” cheered The Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Eliot seemingly condemned football, for his rhetoric. Eliot was a visionary of higher education, the builder of Harvard reputation, having transformed a small Cambridge campus into the world-renowned research institution during his leadership of 36 years. But in everyday news Eliot embodied public enemy No. 1 for cherished football.

Eliot’s annual football criticism was always subject to controversy, delivered within a Harvard report and news interviews. In early 1905 Eliot cited permanency of football injuries, including brain damage of concussion, and alleged that “visibly dazed” players on a field were targeted for further abuse. Eliot equated the “hateful” competition of football to warfare, speaking with The New York Times. “No sport is wholesome in which ungenerous or mean acts which easily escape detection contribute to victory, whether such acts can be occasional, accidental, or habitual,” he said.

Eliot’s comments surely stoked ire of Roosevelt, particularly for the academic’s staking higher ground in morality, which the president presumed for himself in any argument. Roosevelt was also seeing news exposés on college football, disclosures that included professional coaches who stabled paid players of no scholarly record on campuses.

Roosevelt soon visited alma mater Harvard, taking a break of his international negotiations for peace between warring Russia and Japan, to deliver a preachy commencement speech. A specially prepared passage defended American football while rebuking types like Eliot.

“I believe in outdoor games, and I do not mind in the least that they are rough games…,” Roosevelt said on June 28 in Cambridge, “or that those who take part in them are occasionally injured. I have no sympathy whatever with the overwrought sentimentality which would keep a young man in cotton wool, and I have a hearty contempt for him if he counts a broken arm or collarbone as of serious consequence when balanced against the chance of showing that he possesses hardihood, physical address, and courage.”

The president did not mention son Ted’s mounting injuries in prep football while rebuking “sensationalism and hysteria” on part of game critics. Roosevelt identified problems as poor sportsmanship and amoral violence on the gridiron. He blamed individual players, not inherently vicious football, declaring “when these injuries are inflicted by [miscreants], either wantonly or of set design, we are confronted by the question, not of damage to one man’s body, but of damage to the other man’s character. Brutality in playing a game should awaken the heartiest and most plainly shown contempt for the player guilty of it.”

As the football debate heated up in public, especially over the president’s attention and opinion, the game remained a private concern for Roosevelt and his wife, because rugged college football loomed for a son. Teddy would try out for Harvard’s freshman team as a lineman weighing 145 pounds, fulfilling his father’s wish and scaring his mother. Once again parents Theodore and Edith blinked at football danger, contemplating a serious if concealed issue for the First Family, apparently.

Roosevelt might have recalled addressing the Harvard Club a decade before, when he ripped into anti-football comments by the absent Eliot, “stirring up the alumni in great style,” a news writer recounted. “I say I am the father of three boys,” T.R. attested at the time. “I will say right here that if I thought any one of them would weigh a possible broken bone against the glory of being chosen to play on Harvard’s football eleven, I would disinherit him!”

Now Roosevelt felt it worthwhile to contact Eliot, of all people, regarding Ted’s football pursuit; perhaps the Harvard president could keep watchful eye like Peabody had for the kid at Groton School. “He is not an athlete of the first or even second caliber,” Roosevelt wrote Eliot, “but I suppose he will try for the freshman eleven this fall, with the hope of becoming a substitute or something of that kind.”

In mid-September, as Ted’s college start drew near, Roosevelt heard from Peabody at Groton, whose letter would spur action to become American myth  of T.R.’s “saving” football. Endicott Peabody was more than schoolmaster for Roosevelt’s sons; he was longtime confidante of the president whose old, influential New England family embraced athletics. Their relationship was not one-sided but of mutual respect and power-wielding. And Peabody knew how to motivate Theodore Roosevelt through self-righteous morality.

Peabody implored Roosevelt to do something about “the condition of Foot-ball in this country.” Peabody, advocate and host of the gridiron for schoolboys, wrote that “the teaching of Foot-ball at the Universities is dishonest,” continuing:

There are all kinds of abuses connected with the game which should be remedied, but for most of these we can afford to wait. But this fundamental dishonesty calls for immediate treatment. What is the use of teaching a boy to play fairly at school if he is going to be subjected at college to a pressure which he can hardly be expected to withstand to play a tricky game?

Peabody overlooked injuries too—as a Muscular Christian or muscular moralist like T.R.—worrying instead about demoralization of youths if the college game were not reformed. Optimistically, Peabody spelled out how Roosevelt could accomplish the mission:

A complete revolution could be worked if we could get the coaches of Harvard and Yale and Princeton together, and persuade them to undertake to teach men to play Foot-ball honestly. … If you should talk to these three men, and point out to them the importance to the country that this great game should be freed from the stigma which rests upon it they would, I feel confident, acquiesce, and we should start on a new road which should itself be clean, and would lead to many other reforms.

Peabody added, quite optimistically: “You are the one man, so far as I know, who could accomplish this without much effort.”

Roosevelt replied, naively, “I agree with you absolutely,” and set up the meeting as Peabody prescribed. The president contacted coaches and associates at college football’s “Big Three” universities, and they agreed to meet him at the White House in October.

Football season began for the Roosevelt sons with 18-year-old Ted at Harvard; Kermit, 15, at Groton; and Archie, 11, and Quentin, 7, at home with their parents in Washington. “Have you started your football? I think this is important,” the president wrote Kermit, promoting the game’s roughness and fraternity as beneficial for boys. “Archie is playing football with much zeal. Quentin as yet does not care for any sport in which he is likely to get hurt.” For son Ted at Harvard, Roosevelt offered advice on handling the press: “Do not let these newspaper creatures and kindred idiots drive you one hair’s breadth from the line you have marked out in football or anything else.”

But football posed high challenge for Ted, and he had the ignominious distinction of becoming the first Harvard player injured in 1905, sustaining a facial blow and laceration in practice on Oct. 5. A press mob witnessed the injury and sent stories nationwide. “Theodore, Jr., Laid Out,” announced a headline, then another: “Teddie Failed to Make Team: President’s Son Could Not Meet Beef Requirements at Harvard.” The accompanying report quoted a Harvard coach, unnamed, as saying, “Young Roosevelt is full of grit and is game from start to finish. But he is not heavily built, neither is he speedy enough, both of which are essential qualities for an end.”

Football occupied the president on Oct. 9, if not Teddy’s setback, as Roosevelt expected grid leaders in Washington. The Monday was busy at the White House, with government officials among visitors passing through. “To-day I see the football men…,” T.R. wrote Kermit, “to try to get them to come to a gentlemen’s agreement not to have mucker play.”

Roosevelt conducted the meeting that afternoon with representatives of college football’s “Big Three” programs. Those in attendance were: Harvard coach Bill Reid, a football rulemaker, along with Harvard team physician Dr. Edward H. Nichols; Coach Arthur Hildebrand of Princeton, and athletic director John B. Fine, also a football rulemaker; and Yale football coach John Owsley accompanied by, of course, Walter Camp, the Yale athletic director, football rules king, Spalding equipment endorser, sport author and columnist—the most powerful man in American athletics, unparalled. Secretary of State Elihu Root was also present in this room where football rivalry and bias hung heavy, among the Harvard contingent led by Roosevelt and the parties of Yale and Princeton.

But all were football advocates, united to preserve the game from harm, and so went the meeting. Player health was no main topic, apparently, including  brain trauma increasingly cited by medical experts like Dr. Nichols of Harvard, present there at the White House, co-author of a study on football injuries pending publication. No meeting notes were recorded but the press heard details afterward, including T.R. quotes secondhand, and injuries had no priority, if mentioned.

“President Roosevelt avowed his purpose to ‘inaugurate a movement having for its object absolutely clean sport and the eradication of professionalism, money making, and brutality from college games,’ ” stated one news report, and another: “Mr. Roosevelt is especially desirous that the great American college game should not suffer through the unsportsmanlike conduct of players who may willfully injure a member of an opposing team in the heat of the contest.”

The president assigned homework to the football coaches, and they worked together on an evening train from Washington, drafting their official pledge. Headlines ensued: “SWEAR TO IMPROVE GAME” and “Representatives of Big Universities to Follow Roosevelt’s Advice,” with the report:

New Haven, Conn., Oct. 12–Walter Camp, Yale’s general athletic adviser, last night gave out a statement in regard to the conference of the representatives of Yale, Harvard and Princeton, with President Roosevelt Monday, which was held for the purpose of considering reforms in the game of football.

The statement was made public after word had been received from President Roosevelt, and is as follows:

“At a meeting with the president of the United States, it was agreed that we consider an honorable obligation which exists to carry out in letter and in spirit the rules of the game of football relating to roughness, holding and foul play, and the active coaches of our universities being present with us pledged themselves so to regard it and to their utmost to carry out that obligation.

“Walter Camp,

“John B. Owlsley,

“J.B. Fine,

“A.B. Hillebrand,

“Edward H. Nichols,

“William T. Reid, Jr.”

These men represent Yale, Princeton and Harvard.

Since this legendary football confab of Roosevelt, analysts have searched for substantive action and results, evidence of real reform.

“The conference was a public relations triumph but even a superficial reading of the [prepared] communiqué reveals its shortcomings,” observed modern author Mark F. Bernstein. “No one acknowledged that there were any problems with the game that a stricter application of the existing rules would not fix.”

“The president’s reform interest was in attitudes rather than rules,” wrote Guy Maxton Lewis, for his widely cited doctoral dissertation in physical education at the University of Maryland. Lewis continued:

He [T.R.] liked the physical combat in football, but was an outspoken critic of those in sport, business or government who broke “the spirit but not the letter of the law.” … Roosevelt had no interest in rules reform to reduce the injury risk… .

Challenge confronted world leader Roosevelt in trying to resolve football crisis, which his presidential attention stamped instantly for the national agenda. “Roosevelt later remarked that he found his attempts to resolve the conflicts in football more complicated than settling the Russo-Japanese War. Certainly, those attempts proved less successful,” wrote John Sayle Watterson, author of College Football: History, Spectacle, Controversy, continuing:

Unfortunately for the president, football did not lend itself to mediation as readily as diplomacy or politics. By singling out football, Roosevelt’s intervention had an unintended effect. As if by publicly acknowledging that serious defects existed, Roosevelt gave legitimacy to past and future criticism and spotlighted a debate on football injuries which had been ongoing for a decade but had never received so much attention in so many parts of the country.

News opinion covered the spectrum on T.R.’s football-busting. Many commentators ridiculed Roosevelt, calling his action absurd, unbefitting of presidential office; while others praised it as characteristically progressive. In Pennsylvania, The Altoona Tribune editorialized:

Some presidents of the United States would have regarded the discussion of the foot-ball problem beneath their dignity. President Roosevelt, however, has a universal mind. Nothing is too high for him, nothing too trivial. The upshot of the whole matter is that the president is opposed to [football’s] abolition, but heartily in favor of its transformation into a respectable and comparatively safe game.

But the notion of safe or “sane” football was oxymoronic, opined The Washington Post, and of no demand by the general public. The football debate raged primarily among educators, game officials, doctors, politicians and theologians, and stood magnified only for the T.R. touch.

True reform was unattainable, critics charged, with the same foxes in charge of the hen house. “The president with characteristic vigor has tackled a hard job,” Eliot said from Harvard. “It is hard to bring about a reform through the very [football] men who have long known about the existing evils, and have been largely responsible for their continuance.”

Others declared football violence was beyond any fixing, judging from their eyesight. Congressman Charles B. Landis said “fighting, cock-fighting, and bull-fighting are Sabbath-school games in comparison with modern football.” Landis was an Indiana Republican and brother of federal judge Kenesaw Landis, future commissioner of baseball.

“Sport that necessitates the presence of physicians—well, that is simply another evidence that the brutal instincts in man and woman will crop out,” Rep. Landis commented after watching football in the capital city. “Early in the contest one of the captains was carried off the field insensible, and the game went on. There was not a boy in the game who did not run the risk of receiving an injury that would send him through life a hopeless cripple.”

Mass play reared anew as the foremost culprit of football ills. Moreover, while “open play” or lack thereof had dogged Camp and rulemakers for decades, this touted antidote was maturing as a panacea, assured to eliminate field brutality and spectator boredom, according to latest spin.

Abolition of football was hardly espoused anymore, not as a 20th century solution for problems. An outright ban seemed implausible in industrialized America, for this nationalized sport so planted economically, socially, and ideologically. Eliot loathed football but even he had to acknowledge the contribution to higher education’s image. Football cast a romantic aura of campus life, offsetting scholarly drudgery; the game was “firmly entrenched,” Eliot stated, “in the affections and interests of students.”

Football fans and critics alike pleaded for open play. Rulemakers were implored to drop restrictions on forward passing and outside runs while eliminating mass formations—then they would realize “SAFE AND SANE FOOTBALL,” blared The New York Tribune. The resolution was obvious for practically everyone, even William Howard Taft, the jovial war secretary and Yale man who professed knowing little of the collision sport beyond hearing from friends like T.R. and Camp. “I am not an expert on football,” Taft said, “but in common with others, it seems to me that if the game can be more open and the heavy mass plays abolished, the change will be beneficial.”

“The president has discussed football with me several times lately,” Taft continued. “There is no doubt in my mind that football as played is unsportsmanlike. There is altogether too much rough play and unnecessary injuring of players. The passion for winning the game at any cost has led… to bitter recrimination until underhand methods give way to out-and-out slugging.”

Taft and Camp blamed individual athletes and newsmen, not inherently dangerous football, when they addressed a rousing St. Louis meeting of Associated Western Yale Clubs. A scribe reported that Taft, who would become Roosevelt’s handpicked successor as president, “took occasion to speak a good word for football, supporting Mr. Camp’s contention that it is not the game but the individual player and sensational journalism that is responsible for the present agitation against the game.”

At Harvard, meanwhile, football posed brutality for young Ted Roosevelt, with every player violent on the field by necessity, including him, not merely unsportsmanlike characters. Father Theodore surely understood; the president sympathized in letters from Washington when Ted was initially publicized as failing to make the freshman team. The president wrote:

Were not your first few days—or nights—at Harvard rather too full of incident to lend towards football proficiency? … I expected that you would find it hard to compete with the other candidates for the position of end, as they are mostly heavier than you.

Ted was not finished as a Harvard football player, however; he would stay on the field. Theodore stressed commitment to studies and sport, writing to Ted:

In all these things I can only advise you in a very general way. You are on the ground. You know the men and the general college sentiment. You have gone in with the serious purpose of doing decently and honorably; of standing well in your studies; of showing that in athletics you mean business up to the extent of your capacity, and of getting the respect and liking of your classmates so far as they can be legitimately obtained. As to the exact methods of carrying out these objects, I must trust to you.

Ted secured a backup position on the Harvard freshmen team, but injuries struck again when games began. Playing part-time at end, Ted was led off as a casualty before most contests ended. “Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., was injured in a football scrimmage Saturday,” cracked a Minneapolis columnist on Oct. 30, taking swipe at the president.  “Football had just as well take off its headgear and prepare for another swat by the big stick.”

During games Ted suffered a chest injury and absorbed head blows, as most reporters lauded his “pluck.” In a loss for the Harvard freshmen on Nov. 5, Ted was “tackling low and hard and seeming not to mind the way his opponents trampled on him,” a scribe recounted. “Once he was laid out, and for three minutes the play was delayed.”

Ted contacted his parents after the game, asking to come home. Theodore replied immediately, urging his son against doing so because of the upcoming freshmen game versus Yale. “Of course we would be overjoyed to see you, but I don’t want you to leave if it is going to interfere with your football,” the president wrote. ” You must not lose the chance of getting into the Yale game.”

Ted obeyed his father and competed well in an interim game before Yale, as the Harvard frosh defeated Cushing Academy. “Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., played an excellent game for the Crimson, made a number of good tackles, and twice fell on the ball after a fumble,” The New York Tribune reported.

Cushing Academy was not Yale University, however. The Yale association predominated American football, boasting fearsome players on every squad. And Edith Roosevelt knew as much in Washington, fretting over Ted’s pending risk against Yale freshmen; his father worried, too, while also anticipating glorious opportunity for the son.

The freshmen season would climax on Nov. 18 at Cambridge, Harvard versus Yale, the opening match in a week-long series between famed grid rivals to culminate with clash of varsities. Alum Teddy Roosevelt, wistful perhaps for football magic on the Harvard campus, and unmistakable in the proud concern of a player’s father, wrote Ted:

Of course I hope you get into the Yale game, but it doesn’t make much real difference, for you have been on the team and at the training table and you have evidently shown that you are a game player. Orville Frantz [of Harvard YMCA] was here at lunch the other day and he said that you had been playing with just the right spirit. Still, though I would not have had you fail to play, and think it was a mighty good thing for you, I sympathize with Mother in being glad that after next Saturday your playing will be through!

Your loving father

Scrawny Ted Roosevelt needed his dad’s “right spirit,” or pride, prayers and whatever more to withstand Yale football. The game became Ted’s personal worst and most injurious as Harvard lost, 16-0. “Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., was so repeatedly pounded by the heavier Yale freshmen…  that he was taken out in the second half and carried off the field,” The New York Times reported on Sunday morning, Nov. 19. In Washington, The Post placed a graphic account atop Page 3:


President’s Son Carried from the Field Unable to Stir

Special to The Washington Post

Cambridge, Mass., Nov. 18—Worn out by hard fighting against a team of men far heavier than he, battered and smashed by end plays, in which he was trampled down and stepped upon, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., was to-day laid out in the Harvard-Yale freshman football game so that he had to be carried from the field.

When he was in the play, young Roosevelt put up a plucky game. He tackled low and hard, and although light, he got into every play fiercely. When the Yale giants began finally to wear him out he did not show the least signs of quitting, but fought it out gamely until he was fairly staggering with exhaustion.

He made some fearless tackling, but after he got groggy, Yale sent play after play at him.

Once he was knocked out and lay on the ground for some time, but persisted in remaining in the game. Finally a play came around his end that proved too much for the 145-pound boy. When the whistle blew and the men were pulled off the heap, there, underneath everyone else, lay young Roosevelt, cut, bruised, and bleeding, unable to stir. This time he did not protest, but allowed himself to be carried to the locker building, where he was patched up under the doctor’s care.

“Too bad he’s so light,” said McClintock, the sandy-haired coach of the Yale team. “He’s the pluckiest man on the team, and if he had a little more beef he’d make things just a little more interesting.”

Reading The Post at the White House, Edith Roosevelt and daughter Ethel reacted angrily, convinced that Yale targeted Ted for the beating. Theodore acted as football politician, muscular moralist, in writing—or coaching—his son.

Dear Ted:

Good for you! Of course I am sorry that Yale beat us, but I am very glad you made the team and I am not merely glad but very proud that you should have played as you evidently did play in the game. Of course I only know what the papers say but they are united in praising you for having put up an exceedingly resolute and plucky fight and they say that in spite of being lighter than any other man in the line on either team you nevertheless held your own well until you got groggy under the battering plays directed at you. If one of the Boston papers gave a fuller account of the game I wish you would sent it to me. I only hope there will not be any feeling caused in your class by the prominence the newspapers have given to you. …

Incidentally I very sincerely hope that now that football is over you will be able to do better in your studies. A record of C’s with an occasional D does not allow much margin for accidents, and while I think it was entirely satisfactory during the time you were playing football, I hope you can improve upon it a little now. …

Mother and Ethel were very indignant about Yale, and Mother especially was inclined to take a very dark view of the conduct of the Yale team in playing at you. I think it was rather a compliment than otherwise; but anyhow you are the last man in the world that would squeal about it. I think it is evident that the Yale men admire you, judging from the comments of their coach, and of course your game is to be perfectly good-natured and friendly with them and say that everything was all right. I am very proud of what you have done and I feel that you have lived right up to the doctrines you have preached and that you have upheld the family credit in great shape.

The president’s typed letter concluded with a P.S. in his handwriting. “I am mighty glad you played football this year,” he repeated to Ted, “and I am not at all sorry that you are too light to try for the varsity, so that this will really be your last year hard at it.”

Ted replied to his parents in positive language, writing:

They [Yale] played a clean, straight game and played no favorites. I met a good many of them whom I knew after the game and we had a friendly drink together. They beat us by simply and plainly outplaying us. … The report in the paper about Yale directing their interference against me was all bosh. Of course I knew all that rotten talk about come out in the papers, but it could not be helped.  … Well, I am very glad that I made the team anyway. I feel so large in my black sweater with the numerals on. Saturday’s game was a hard one, as I knew it was bound to be. I was not seriously hurt at all. Just shaken up and bruised. I broke my nose.

Ted’s crushed nose would require surgery. An eye was blackened and the neck wrenched, and he likely sustained brain trauma, for symptoms visible during the Yale game. A reporter located him in Cambridge, looked at the teen’s swollen and discolored face, the bloodied eye, and asked Ted if football were brutal and whether he agreed with his father on reform.

“I don’t wish to be in the newspapers,” replied Theodore, Jr., reflecting his mother. “I’ve been there altogether too much already.”

Roosevelt wrote Camp to say that Yale played fair against his son, without malicious intent as alleged by the First Lady. But from thereon in football crisis, the president entrusted less authority to Camp and his Yale-tilted committee for resolving anything. “The moral reform movement became a personal concern of the Roosevelt family after the Yale-Harvard freshman game,” surmised Lewis.

1905: Football Tempest Subsides on Presidential Instruction

Within days of Ted’s injury against Yale, T.R. strengthened his presidential stance on the football question. Having begun the dialogue six weeks before, Roosevelt decided to issue rule recommendations for football reform. He summoned another gridiron insider to Washington for relaying message to the press, Dr. J. William White of Philadelphia, a University of Pennsylvania football booster and professor of surgery.

Foremost, the president opposed a ban on tackle football and sought “to minimize danger while preserving the essential manly and vigorous characteristics of the game,” newspapers reported after White’s trip to Washington. Roosevelt wanted a uniform athletics code for amateur eligibility, presumably administered by a national organization. Roosevelt wanted field rules without loopholes and rigid enforcement by referees. He called for penalizing institutions and coaches when athletes committed severe violations, and for “gentlemen’s agreement” among schools to ensure compliance. T.R. wanted football officials to eliminate brutality and dirty tricks on the field.

“Brutality and foul play should receive the same summary punishment given to a man who cheats at cards, who strikes a foul blow in boxing,” said White, reciting statements of Roosevelt for newsmen. “The umpire must have the widest latitude in enforcing this principle, even to the extent of ordering not only individual players, but whole teams off the field, and college presidents should hold to the sharpest accountability the umpire who permits for brutal football in any game.”

So-called brutality should include “slugging” and “kneeing,” said Penn officials, while “piling on” and “straight arm” jabbing should constitute “unnecessary roughness.” A case occurred on Thanksgiving Day, when star quarterback Walter Eckersall was flattened unconscious in a controversial 2-0 win for the University of Chicago. A referee ruled a Michigan player maliciously decked Eckersall and kneed him in the head, and the offender was ejected from this title match of western football.

Roosevelt demanded such uncompromising enforcement of football code and began pushing his plan privately with game officials and college leaders, communicating largely by mail. He met personally with Woodrow Wilson, for example, the Princeton University president destined for Washington and the Oval Office.

Roosevelt visited the Princeton campus to attend the Army-Navy game on Dec. 2, leading a “most brilliant official throng” of his cabinet members and congressional lawmakers, affirming grid fandom on Capitol Hill. The New York Tribune observed that “the President saw a smart, able exhibition of the great American undergraduate game, strenuously played… but free from any taint of foul play or personal rancor.”

Football season wound down in 1905, awash in news of injury and death, and a professor blasted the game from the University of Chicago, proclaiming the only option to be “stop playing it.” Shailer Mathews, dean of the Chicago divinity school, accused newspapers of elevating football into “a social obsession—a monomania.” Mathews labeled the football institution as a cartel, a “boy-killing, man-mutilating, money-making, education-prostituting, gladiatorial sport.”

Football abolitionists like Mathews were scarce, including among educators, and game injuries inspired no one’s forceful countermeasure.  Social Darwinism pulsed through cultural thought and behavior, especially with blustery T.R. in the White House, and even academics could sound blood-thirsty.  When committees opened work nationwide to tackle football issues, none touted a priority of ensuring player protection to resolve the tempest.

But severe injuries were systemic of American football, from colleges to sandlots, and the 1905 casualties seemed extraordinary under intense spotlight. The Chicago Tribune announced 19 fatalities for the football season as of Nov. 26, but data were actually routine besides the death of a young woman, and unverifiable, also typical of annual press reporting.

Coaches and trainers summarily discounted casualty figures. “The number of deaths from football this season was nineteen. The number last season was about the same, and I don’t think there has been any increase in the death list for many years,” said Columbia coach Bill Morley. “When you consider that during the football season probably 100,000 players are engaged in the game, then the death rate is wonderfully small.”

Officials declared football safe as basketball, bicycling and polo, and safer than baseball, the sporting “pastime” which would kill excessively until advent of hard headgear. Football officials blamed death in their sport on poor player specimens, along with inadequate training and medical supervision, but they overlooked common violence as a factor.

Game insiders also argued with each other,  about helmet designs, colliding technique to avoid head impacts, and definitions of brutality and unnecessary roughness. They divided sharply over Walter Camp, whether the recognized Father of American Football should continue as czar of rule-making after 27 years. Camp had image problems. Journalists were exposing cash riches and shady professionalism around Yale football, and many foes questioned the winning regime—22 national championships in 34 seasons—that they believed Camp rigged through rule-making and further influence. Many in the sport wished to see him dethroned from atop the rules committee.

John Heisman, coach of Georgia Tech, alluded to football infighting for his commentary in The Atlanta Constitution on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Heisman claimed that “truth to tell, this rules committee has never quite succeeded in satisfying the game’s detractors.” Heisman wrote:

At the close of the season 1904 the demand for radical changes became so widespread and insistent that it seemed a heavy impression would surely be made upon the committee members and startling legislation would be the result.

But, though the members really sat up and took notice, really took an interest in the discussion, pondered much and discussed more, the absolute result of their deliberations was nil—the changes made proved trifling in the extreme and the game this year is just about as it was last year.

The effect… there is now more criticism—intelligent and otherwise, more howling down—of the game than has ever been known before, and in this crisis it becomes the duty of everyone who knows football by experience and observation to speak up manfully, yet with discretion, with well-weighed words and temperateness, but, above all, with honesty. Let neither the cranks for, nor the cranks against the game permit their prejudices to run away with their sound common sense.

Heisman agreed with Camp that a “10-yard rule” for awarding a first down would discourage the grinding interior plays to gain just 5 yards for retaining possession, as the rule stood. But Heisman was staunch advocate of forward passing, and after years of backroom lobbying with the likes of Camp, fruitlessly, he publicly revealed the stonewalling:

Last year, I suggested to the rules committee that if they really wanted to open up the game… they might rule forward passing permissible. This, too, was discussed and partly favored but was finally dismissed for the reason that is would make the game too much like basketball. To my way of thinking, no great harm would be done if it did resemble basketball a little more.

In one word, then, I think mass play is the trouble with modern football. … Let us do away with mass pushing and we can get the smaller fellows into the game again—many more of the general run of students at large can take part in the game.

Secondly, it will do away with what brutalizing tendency the game now may have.

Thirdly, it will please the spectators by its greater attractiveness. …

I confidently predict that with the abolition of the mass play, the adverse criticism will subside if not entirely die out.

The large majority of college administrators echoed Coach Heisman, supporting “radical revision” of football for the open format. Only a handful of schools banned football. The headliner was Columbia University, where administrators abolished the sport during Thanksgiving break, enraging students upon their return. Educators elsewhere sympathized—with Columbia students.

“I think that is going entirely too far,” remarked Cyrus Northrop, president at the University of Minnesota. “I am not in favor of the elimination of football from college sports. There is no question but that changes should be made in the game as played at present. In my opinion, the rules can be so amended as to make the plays more open [with] more punting and end runs, and fewer mass formations and scrimmages.”

Camp, for his part, maintained that “the 10-yard rule suggested by him last Spring would cure the game by opening the play,” reported The New York Times. Camp said, “In open play the slugging and dirty work sometimes done in scrimmage would be impossible, because it could be seen. If we can get the game so that the spectators can see all of it, public opinion would stop foul play. The 10-yard rule would allow lighter men to get into the open game, which would be an advantage that some people are urging.” Camp promised his committee would finally fix football, but skeptics were legion.

“No Experts Need Apply,” The Times headlined over a story with Harvard president Eliot, who sneered: “I find it impossible to believe that the committees, coaches, and umpires that have ruined the game are to be trusted with the reform or replacement.”

Eliot also professed no faith in a fledgling group of educators and athletic representatives, outside the Camp committee, who where meeting to pursue new football structure. The organizer was chancellor Henry B. MacCracken of New York University, who asked Eliot to lead the upstart organization, but the Harvard leader declined. Eliot proposed a moratorium on football, a “cooling down” period for ridding the game of unsportsmanlike attitude. “To get rid of this vicious spirit, I think we must stop intercollegiate football for a time,” Eliot said.

The MacCracken group did impress Harvard men besides Eliot, including Roosevelt and football coach Bill Reid, an attendee of the White House summit and member of Camp’s rules committee. MacCracken’s national organization was building momentum, adding representatives of more colleges large and small. The group sought to preserve football through “radical revision,” with casualties to be expected. “Football is football: It is not a parlor game,” said a group spokesman. “What we shall aim to do in changing the rules will be to limit, so far as possible, the number of injuries.”

When the MacCracken convention appointed its committee for representation in football rule-making, newspapers heralded the development. The Harrisburg Daily Independent in Pennsylvania reported:


Resolutions Pass Denouncing the Game As Now Played

New York, Dec. 29—The great college game of football will be saved to the American public. The greatest movement in behalf of the sport was inaugurated at the Murray Hill hotel yesterday when representatives from sixty-two colleges and universities from every section of the United States convened at the invitation of Chancellor MacCracken, of New York University… football reform seems assured.

The salvation of the convention hung upon a resolution favoring the appointment of a committee to request a conference with the [Camp] committee that has had the keeping of the game in its hand in former years. This was the battle of the meeting. The radicals advised self-constituted committee, and it was a difficult task to swing the sentiment of the convention into a favorable consideration of this resolution. However, after the hardest kind of battle, the practical men in the conference managed to convince the others that recognition of the present Intercollegiate Rules Committee was necessary if any effective reforms were to be made, and that the work of revising the rules would have to be undertaken with that body as a part to any action.

A committee of seven was therefore appointed to revise the rules and to seek an amalgamation with the present Rules Committee.

Harvard football men saw chance for a coup in rule-making: By politically playing the new group against the standing committee, Camp and Yale could be dislodged from central power. Harvard associates also sought control of the football debate for keeping their own program intact at Cambridge, heading off threat of suspension by the Eliot faction. Harvard men began making noise about leaving the football establishment if Camp’s committee were not receptive to “radical” reform. Speculation had Harvard in position to lead a new football association that would envelop the MacCracken group.

But before Harvard powerbrokers could gerrymander policy to “clean” the collision game—with help from booster Roosevelt at the White House—they confronted a pair of roadblocks: defection of a star Crimson player and frightful research on team injuries.

Harvard football had barely missed calamity with captain D.J. Hurley, a halfback who suffered delayed brain hemorrhaging of hits from Dartmouth on Nov. 18. Symptoms presented days after the game in Hurley’s bizarre behavior and slurred speech on campus. Hurley, hospitalized for a week until the intracranial clot subsided, would never play football again.

Star tackle Karl Brill quit the Harvard team in December, citing his class load in engineering, but primarily for protesting football’s inescapable violence. Brill’s decision was headlined as unprecedented for a talented player in his prime. He wrote in a prepared statement for press:

I have been in the game 10 years, playing tackle most of the time. I believe the human body was never meant to withstand the enormous strain which football demands. Moreover, I don’t believe the game is right. I dislike it on moral grounds. It is a mere gladiatorial combat. It is brutal throughout. When you are opposed to a strong man, you have got to get the better of him by violence.

I fail to see where the gray matter in a man’s head is exercised at all, nor am I able to see how football is the intricate game some proclaim it to be. Neither do I see how the game can be reformed or remedied. Sooner or later I believe we shall come to our sense and abolish it from all American institutions of learning.

A landmark medical study rattled Harvard football in January, documenting the program’s injury plague for 1905, co-authored by team doctors and published by Boston Medical and Surgical Journal. Lead author Dr. Edward H. Nichols, a Boston surgeon and Harvard professor, worked closely with football coach Bill Reid and was well-acquainted with fan alum President Roosevelt. Nichols, a Harvard baseball legend as a former star captain-coach, had attended the White House football summit with Reid. The medical news was breaking just as Reid orchestrated inside overthrow of the Camp committee.

The Harvard football study startled anyone with comprehension, particularly for revelations on brain trauma. Nichols and co-author Dr. Homer B. Smith gathered casualty information through surveying players and monitoring practices and games. Approximately 150 players aspired for the varsity or ” university team,” with about half accounting for the bulk of collision exposures, and 145 injuries were recorded, qualified in severity ranging from “moderate” to “great.”

Twenty-two bone fractures occurred in breaks of fibula, pelvis [4 cases], rib [5], clavicle, finger [9], nose and neck—the latter a case of fracture in the second cervical vertebra, which apparently did not involve permanent paralysis and deadly bed infection. Hurley’s brain bleed was perhaps worst among Harvard injuries, and his recovery continued into 1906.

Injured players were sidelined from football for a total of 1,057 days and cumulatively missed 175 days of college classes. After the season, 35 players of 110 who answered queries confirmed they were still recovering from injuries, and researchers suspected significant under-reporting of lingering pain and dysfunction. “Many of the joint injuries are of such a character as to be likely to be progressively worse and many of the injuries to the shoulder are certain to cause some disability in later years,” Nichols and Smith wrote for BMSJ.

For “head injuries,” news scribes highlighted the findings on Harvard football; Nichols and Smith had diagnosed 19 brain concussions on the 1905 varsity. Newspapers reported:

A sensational feature of the observations of the surgeons is their statement that cases of concussion of the brain were frequent. In fact, only two games were played during the entire season in which a case of concussion did not occur.

A range of symptoms accompanied brain trauma on the football field, often detected from the sidelines. In the journal article, Nichols and Smith stated a concussed, oblivious player might “run through a considerable series of plays before his mates noticed that he was mentally irresponsible.” The researchers continued:

The mental state of the players who had concussion was variable, some being highly excitable and hysterical, others merely confused, and in a few cases, knocked completely unconscious. In every case there was a certain loss of memory, both previous and subsequent to the injury. … Concussion was treated by the players in general as a trivial injury and rather regarded as a joke.

Possible brain damage of football players was incalculable, but many specialists believed TBI could lead to mental disorder, chronic disease, and suicide. “The real seriousness of the injury is not certain,” Nichols and Smith observed.

For general casualty among major sports, tackle football ranked first, far ahead, according to the following study conclusions:

(1) The number, severity and permanence of the injuries which are received in playing football are very much greater than generally is credited or believed.

(2) The great number of the injuries come in the “pile” and not in the open plays, although serious injuries are received in the open.

(3) The number of injuries is inherent in the game itself, and is not due especially to close competition, as is shown by the fact that the proportion of injuries received in games and in practice is about the same.

(4) A large percentage of the injuries is unavoidable.

(5) The percentage of injuries is incomparably greater in football than in any other of the major sports.

(6) The game does not develop the best type of men physically, because too great prominence is given to weight without corresponding nervous energy.

(7) Constant medical supervision of the game where large numbers of men are engaged is a necessity and not a luxury, although it is a question if a game, requiring the constant attendance of two trained surgeons, is played under desirable conditions.

(8) The percentage of injury is much too great for any mere sport.

The Harvard study was publicized nationwide, drawing “much interest” as debate raged over football, according to The New York Tribune, and response was strong from the American Medical Association in Chicago.

The medical writers of JAMA editorialized against football as a health menace: “We may say at once that their [Nichols and Smith] conclusions are entirely against the game as judged from its medical standpoint.” JAMA editors rated concussion findings as likely the “most serious feature” of the research and discussed potential brain damage for impact victims such as football players; they wrote:

When a condition like [concussion] develops as the result of an injury, the central nervous system has received a very severe shaking up. There was a time when it was considered that convulsions and other untoward incidents in the conscious life of the individual were not likely to be followed by serious consequences. This is not the opinion at present time, however. One of the questions always asked by nerve specialists with regard to nervous disease developing later on in life, is whether or not the individual ever suffered from convulsions in childhood. A state of affairs in which the individual acts as an automaton after an injury is not so different from a convulsive seizure. If the one is supposed to have serious consequences so may the other. At the present time no one is ready to say whether concussions of the brain may or may not have serious consequences in after life.

JAMA editors viewed the Harvard study as red alert for educators who sanctioned football’s bloody spectacle at schools and colleges, as well as for the medical institution’s prevailing laissez faire approach. Game officials and advocates were chastised for their rationale that football benefits somehow outweighed risks. The JAMA editorial continued:

The whole report of the two surgeons in charge of the Harvard squad should be read by every prominent educator throughout the country, and it should be the duty of the members of the medical profession to see that it is called particularly to their attention. Surely, no one will consider after this calm exposure of the inside history of football injuries, even at a great university where no effort is spared to bring the men into the pink of condition, that football is to be considered a game without serious risks, no matter what the preparation, or that it is to be compared with any of the other sports in this matter of liability to serious injury. An attempt has been made to gloss over football’s worst aspects by widely published suggestions that no game is entirely without the danger of death under accidental circumstances. In football, however, as the Harvard surgeons emphasize, the injuries are absolutely dependent on the present methods of playing the game itself, and are bound to occur.

In 2014, science historian Emily A. Harrison characterized the Nichols-Smith literature as resounding for the problem of traumatic brain injury in American football, long ago at Harvard, grid bastion of the day. “Concussion was deemed something that could happen almost invisibly in the noise and action of a game,” Harrison wrote. “The concussion crisis had begun.”

Nevertheless in 1906, lest any football abolitionist took up the research of Nichols and Smith, the Harvard team physicians couched political caveat within passages they wrote largely like a sport condemnation. In fact, these sports doctors asserted football casualties could be reduced to acceptable margin. “Leaving out all other objections to the game, ethical and practical…,” Nichols and Smith wrote in their conclusion No. 9, finishing the BMSJ article, “the conditions under which the game is played should be so modified as to diminish to a very great degree the number of injuries.”

All shades of football supporters denied field danger was insolvable, purporting that injuries were controllable through reform. Harvard men bore this popular banner with Dr. Nichols out front, discussing his football study with press on Jan. 15, saying,  “I think the rules can be changed to make them answer the demands for an improved game.”

Events followed in formality. The MacCracken committee gained a place at the rule-making table, joining up with the old committee after members relented, and autocratic Walter Camp was overthrown as chief. Reid keyed the maneuver, encouraged by Roosevelt; the Harvard coach was appointed as rules secretary, supplanting Camp at top.

The conjoined committees adopted a name, the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States, for establishing a bureaucracy extending beyond elite eastern football, evolving toward becoming known, in a few years, as the National Collegiate Athletic Association, or NCAA. “Abuses did not end with the organization of the Association,” surmised Guy Maxton Lewis, a half-century later. “Profits to support winning teams continued to motivate athletic associations.”

Football rolled on, with official concern for player protection only when convenient, or hardly ever. The football institution focused on protecting itself, which was the realistic mission always within reach. The casualty drumbeat continued, impossible to tone down, modify, legislate away.

In July 1906 football rules secretary Bill Reid detailed newly ratified measures in his lengthy review published by newspapers and journals. The new rules required advancing 10 yards within three plays for a first down, to encourage outside runs; required a “neutral zone” or scrimmage line between teams, of ball’s length, to provide clearer view for referees and spectators; allowed forward passing with restrictions; defined illicit tactics constituting brutality and unnecessary roughness, to aid  enforcement; and required minimally six offensive players on the line of scrimmage at snap of the ball, limiting mass formations.

During the 1906 football season pressmen collected fewer cases of death and survivor casualties, and the unvalidated numbers were generally considered as sign of improvement. Critics still scoffed, but “safe” football was never the serious goal of reformers, anyway, reminded The New York Times. On the contrary, mass formations had become maddening for spectators, according to the editorial: “It was the dullness of the shove and push, the ‘mass and charge,’ that was really deadly.”

The Times praised new rulemakers for creating quick, agile field action, stating “it seems that they have saved the game of football.” President Roosevelt drew credit, too, at home and in Canada, where tackle football had taken root. “His influence is expected to be far-reaching,” opined The Winnipeg Tribune, “and the next few years will doubtless see a marked improvement all along the line.”

Roosevelt wasn’t so sure himself. Speaking at Harvard in early 1907, he claimed football reform was succeeding at preparatory schools because of moral administrators like his pal Endicott Peabody at Groton—but not at the colleges, still. The president continued to belittle “nonsense” of football abolitionists, but he blamed college officials and referees for poorly enforcing the new rules he helped establish. “[Roosevelt] declared that it was his opinion that the right kind of umpiring and refereeing would remove the evils of football,” reported The Boston Daily Globe.

Roosevelt said, “The preparatory schools are able to keep football clean, and to develop the right spirit in the players without the slightest necessity ever arising to so much as consider the question of abolishing it. There is no excuse whatever for colleges failing to show the same capacity… the experience of every good preparatory school shows that the abuse is in no shape necessarily attendant upon the game.”

The president’s dubious philosophy on football “abuse,” including upholding prep schools as above the maw, fell apart the following season, when schools private and public produced the majority of reported fatalities in the tackle game.

JAMA editors responded quickly, issuing their unprecedented medical condemnation of football—for juvenile participants, at least—following the championship games of 1907. Regarding college football, JAMA charged that officials and associates weren’t delivering on their promise of “safer” play.

“It was confidently asserted that as the years went on and the new rules came more and more into vogue, and the open game more played, the number of fatalities and injuries would decrease further,” JAMA doctors editorialized. “To most people this sounded plausible enough, and we are not prepared to declare the new regulations a failure simply because of this year’s increase of 40 percent in the number of [reported] deaths. For all the fatalities except two were in high school or boys’ teams, by whom the new rules are not so carefully followed, and over whom coaches and trainers do not generally exercise supervision. It is only fair, therefore, to withhold final judgment on the effect of the new rules [for college football] until more facts are at hand as to their definite relationship to the games in which injuries and death resulted.”

“There need be no such hesitation, however, in deciding that football is no game for boys to play.”

1912: Forgetting Football TBI and Disease For Posterity

Football deaths made major headlines for years after 1905, with reported data unverifiable and varying. Journalists collected fatality cases by “clipping” newsprint flows, and their 1909 tallies figured badly for so-called football reform—“the most disastrous season in the history of the sport,” remarked a New York scribe—with reported numbers ranging from 29 to 33 deaths, mostly schoolboys. Although Harvard’s Dr. Nichols was recording dwindling casualties on his team, year by year, news analysts and independent doctors saw injuries only rising in football, particularly for cases of brain trauma or “concussion.”

Many critics blamed the emerging open format for riskier colliding among speeding players, compared to slower mass formations. A national news commentary stated “not even the football rulemakers can wipe out the bone-breaking features of the game by substituting one kind of danger for another.” And The Washington Herald opined: “The open play game, brought about by the 10-yard rule and other innovations, supposed to lessen the perils of the gridiron, seems to be a failure as far as any great saving of life and limb is concerned.”

Herald editorial writers contended brain concussion “may cause permanent bodily effects,” adding that TBI “seems a direct argument against the open game, as practically all of the brain injuries reported were received in running tackles, made prominent by the open game, in contrast to the close struggles in the mass plays of the past.”

The theory of tackling with “head up” and placed to one side, heard since turn of the century, entered public discussion once again after the 1909 season, debacle. A New Jersey sportswriter intoned: “In any event ‘tackle’ with heads up should be substituted for ‘tackle’ with heads down in the football contest. Athletes may get along with broken noses and gradual elimination of front teeth but the skull is valuable and rules should be made to hold it intact if possible.”

Former president Theodore Roosevelt detected folly in football policy, regardless his own responsibility. In 1910 Roosevelt spoke at Cambridge University in England, where he complimented rugby, the British collision sport of running, passing and kicking. Roosevelt liked rugby for having no scrimmage line and prohibiting “interference” or blocking to lead ball-carriers. And there was no armor.

T.R. lamented the state of American football. “There is one thing I wish I could learn from you…,” he told the British audience, “how to make football a less homicidal pastime. I don’t wish to speak as a mere sentimentalist, but I don’t think manslaughter should be a normal accompaniment. I do think a first-class football match between two American university teams is a corking game, but I should like to modify the game in order to draw the teeth of the men who cry out against football, and thus deprive them of a valid argument against a good sport.”

“He Makes a Plea for Human Football,” The New York Herald headlined back home, of Roosevelt abroad.

While T.R. no longer steered football rule-making, NCAA officials professed their aim for humane play. They approved new, unrestricted forward passing, and critics were appeased. Forms of the forward pass had been sanctioned in rules since 1906, but restrictions discouraged its use, such as mandate on when to throw on the field, where to throw and how far, and loss of ball possession for an incomplete attempt.

Stifling rules were loosened in 1910 then done away with by the NCAA. The forward pass was fully legalized in 1912, for throwing from anywhere on the field behind the line of scrimmage, for any distance.

Fans loved action of the passing game, but effect on football risk was unclear in coming years. The sporting press reported slight decline in deaths through World War I, but game mortality and injury rates were not ascertained. The NCAA did not bother with football research, fewer journalists cared anymore, and no valid epidemiological frame was launched. Football ills became passé as world and national affairs occupied public concern and rhetoric.

The gridiron had survived, endured as prime human escape, American fantasy, nothing to really worry about. The nation stood enraptured, gratified with football and its social rituals of the season. Theodore Roosevelt continued glorifying “clean” football, speaking to boys and parents, and Woodrow Wilson applied the T.R. model for exploiting the game to enhance his own presidential popularity.

Wilson, elected two terms to the White House from 1913 to 1921, traveled with his “Wilson Guard” of football stars for appearances. The pacifist president and academic had served as secretary of the Princeton football association in college, avoiding the field battle himself. President Wilson applauded NCAA measures to finally establish the open game, years after the failed reform of Roosevelt’s influence. “The new rules are doing much to bring football to a high level as a sport, for its brutal features are being done away with and better elements retained,” Wilson said.

One football official wasn’t convinced, given the ongoing pervasive casualties. “I am in doubt as to whether the game is safer…,” said Jonas A. Babbit, NCAA rules chairman, “but public opinion seems to hold that it is safer.”

A century later, the analyst Harrison rued football’s historic whitewash for brain injuries and disease, commenting for the Somatosphere website. Harrison wrote that “ample evidence existed at the turn of the 19th century to make a convincing case of concussion’s dangers at that time.” She continued:

Society forgot what it knew because significant work was done by football’s supporters to hush up evidence in the media and other popular discussions, to discourage scientific research, and to legitimize football by allying it with morally-reputable institutions and with cultural ideals of manliness that carried great weight at that time. What was known was unlearned, forgotten, pushed away into a corner. Over time, the first surge of the concussion crisis settled away into the storage bins of history.

“In the long history of the concussion crisis there is a story,” Harrison concluded, “that once a society comes to know something is unsafe, those with a stake in its perpetuation prefer that people forget.”

Matt Chaney is an author, editor, and consultant on public issues in sport, specializing in American football. Chaney, MA in media studies, is a former college football player and coach whose books include Spiral of Denial: Muscle Doping in American Football, self-published in 2009.Chaney’s study for graduate thesis, co-published with the University of Central Missouri in 2001, analyzed print sport-media coverage of anabolic substances in football from 1983-1999. Email him at mattchaney@fourwallspublishing.com or visit the website for more information.

1900-1968 News Line of Football Brain Damage and Policy-Making

By Matt Chaney

Friday, January 1, 2016

The historical texts and notes on football issues previously posted here in timeline were publicly available only for a term. The collections are now in reserve by the researcher for future use. The following remain posted:

Chaney, M. (2016, Dec. 21). ‘Safe Football Failed in 1880s, Talking Points Lived On. ChaneysBlog.com

Chaney, M. (2015, July 28). The 1890s: Brain risks confirmed in American football. ChaneysBlog.com.

Chaney, M. (2016, Jan. 30). 1900-1912: ‘First Concussion Crisis’ for beloved football. ChaneysBlog.com.

Chaney, M. (2016, May 11). ‘Heads Up’ theory, football helmets and brain disease, 1883-1962. ChaneysBlog.com.

Chaney, M. (2016, May 31). Teddy Roosevelt loved football, except when it brutalized his son. Sports.Vice.com.

Chaney, M. (2016, Nov. 29, 2016). “Slaughter of the innocents”: When D.C. considered banning high school football. Sports.Vice.com.

Matt Chaney is an author, editor, and consultant on public issues in sport, specializing in American football. Chaney, MA in media studies, is a former college football player and coach whose books include Spiral of Denial: Muscle Doping in American Football, self-published in 2009Chaney’s study for graduate thesis, co-published with the University of Central Missouri in 2001, analyzed print sport-media coverage of anabolic substances in football from 1983-1999. Email him at mattchaney@fourwallspublishing.com or visit the website for more information. 

The 1890s: Brain Risks Confirmed in American Football

Brain Injury in American Football: 130 Years of Knowledge and Denial

The 1890s: Cerebral Risks Confirmed on Gridiron

Part One in A Series

By Matt Chaney

Posted Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Copyright ©2015 by Matthew L. Chaney

As American football officials tell the story today, brain injury among players is a fledgling issue, identified only in recent years, the 2000s.

Administrators, coaches, trainers, doctors, and researchers of contemporary football say they have only begun to grasp brain risk for players, while otherwise declaring no need for alarm. Officials say parents and children must not worry because dangers are exaggerated and countermeasures are in place.

The game embraces “concussion awareness” as never before, committing unprecedented dollars to research and prevention. “Heads Up Football,” for example, the program said to teach headless hitting to youths, is a household term for its $45 million in development and publicity funded by the NFL and players union.

But are traumatic brain injuries [TBI] and policy-making actually newfound for the collision sport?

Is the football institution—generations of administrators, coaches, trainers, doctors—really just comprehending TBI among players and what might be done? That’s the official claim, anyway, especially for legal defense against lawsuits filed by former players and families.

Historical events tell a different football story, meanwhile, in an extensive review of news databases by this investigator. Generally, the factual past conflicts with official versions proffered today.

Because the dilemma of head injuries inherent for tackle football—brain “concussion” foremost, broadly defined for varying states of severity—has reared regularly in public since the Victorian Era. Periodic controversies have spanned three centuries and affected most decades of the game, including the 1890s, 1900s, 1920s, 1930s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 2010s.

Along the way, football has seen every type of brain trauma in players, consistently, predictably. Countless cases publicized since the 1800s have ranged from debilitating headaches to fatal hemorrhaging, and officials have tried much for preventing casualties while managing “return to play” of injured athletes, if never realizing success.

Several outright failed initiatives have been recycled, repackaged and promoted anew in periods over the continuum—like old “head up” theory, publicized in 1899 but presently sold as cutting-edge, Heads Up “technique.”

ChaneysBlog presents a series on the history of football collision, brain injury, and policy, with this first article examining football in its formative phase, the latter 1800s—when officials made promises of safety reform that echo yet.

So-called protective helmets, rule changes, medical supervision, proper coaching, and safer colliding have been promoted for a century and longer in American football.

1892: Gridiron Violence, ‘Flying Wedge’ Ignite Public Furor

As American football’s first injury crisis festered in 1892, the Harvard University team stoked controversy, unveiling its “flying wedge” blocking formation against rival Yale during the most publicized game of the year.

Returning a kickoff, two wings of Harvard players sprinted downfield on the attack, leading the ball carrier. At last instant 10 Harvard men converged in a V-wedge, “flying into Yale’s right wing like a crimson simoon,” a writer recounted. Twenty yards were gained on the return, a substantial run for grinding “mass” football of the time.

“What a grand play!” proclaimed The New York Times, for “a half ton of bone and muscle coming into collision with a man weighing 160 or 170 pounds.”

“The trick was so pretty that even the Yale men were disposed to applaud,” reported The New York Evening World. Yale “coachers” pronounced the latest wedge scheme “as one of the finest plays ever seen.”

Critics of football, in turn, deplored the flying wedge as epitome of gratuitous violence in sport, and on behalf of higher education no less.

“The fatal twisting of the neck of a football player and several other horrifying details in the football news… add to the growing demand that unless the leaders of the game themselves will ‘regulate’ the playing as they promise and profess to do, the police shall,” The Boston Advertiser editorialized. “The public cannot stand these harrowing casualties.”

“That the rules governing intercollegiate football must be changed seems to be the general opinion of the sporting public and those college graduates who are making a constant study of the great game,” asserted a national commentary. “The increased opportunities for accidents and the brutality which has marked many of the recent big games have made radical changes necessary.”

Football supporters laughed, contending dangers were exaggerated, led by Harvard dean of engineering Nathaniel S. Shaler, a former player. “I have never known a single man, personally, to be killed or permanently hurt in the game,” Shaler said. “The death rate in football is way down.” By comparison, Shaler noted that horse transportation and boating had killed nine of his friends.

The Charlotte Observer editorialized “that there is a good deal of humbuggery in all the recent clamor about the dangers of football,” continuing that boys “are liable to get hurt at almost any game in which they engage—unless it be croquet.”

“This question of football is a matter of family government rather then the public’s business,” the newspaper continued. “If the parents are willing for the son to play football and take chances, it is none of the public’s affair. After the player passes 21, it is nobody’s business but his own.”

Football advocacy did not impress many Americans. Some wanted “foot-ball” banned from college campuses that hosted it in pursuit of financial gain and prestige, a quarter-century after students organized the game at eastern universities.

Opposition flourished in higher education and the popular press, pressuring game policy-makers to act, particularly Walter Camp of Yale University, the coach, referee and rule-maker who would be known as the Father of American Football.

Camp headed the Yale coaching staff enamored with mass plays like the flying wedge, but he knew football suffered for its image as a sanctioned brawl. “The protest… by the faculties of a large number of colleges is having its effect,” he acknowledged.

The game was dangerous and barbaric at eyesight, and no one could calculate the casualty numbers, undoubtedly high, as football expanded west through schools, colleges, and athletic clubs.

The sport had begun as an “open” game of rugby sprints and passes, but rule changes led by Camp in the 1880s established a line of scrimmage between opposing teams of 11 men each, and ball possession for one side at a time. Possession was retained for gaining five yards in three “downs.”

Rules legitimized “interference,” or blocking for a ball carrier, then “low” tackling. Offensive planning evolved to emphasize brutish players for “momentum” starts, clustered in walls and wedges, to make running strikes at a defense.

Analyst Michael Oriard observed that the rule allowing tackling below the waist “virtually eliminated open-field running, led to increasingly brutal (and boring) mass play, altered the very shape of football players by tilting the advantage overwhelmingly toward sheer bulk, and necessitated the development of padded armor to protect the newly vulnerable players.”

A news writer panned the Harvard-Yale game in 1893, complaining that “the great battle did not bristle with interesting plays. There was a constant pile in the middle of the field, from which it was half the time impossible to pick the man with the ball.”

Hazardous tactics created repulsive scenes. Players pushed and pulled their ball carriers for yardage, inflicting injury. Elbowing abounded, along with grabbing, tossing, trampling, and punching. A New York reporter noted a “rule disqualifying a man who uses his clenched fist is strongly advocated.”

“The players on the line often sparred with one another, shoved, or even slugged one another before the snap of the ball,” wrote historian John Sayle Watterson. “Guards and tackles could take up positions in the backfield because the rules did not specify the linemen had to be at the scrimmage line.”

“Once a player left the game, he could not return. Hence, injured players often staggered around the field until they collapsed or asked to be taken out of the game.”

At end of the 1893 football season, officials could dally no longer on reform. “There is quite a popular demand for the abolition of the flying wedge and other dangerous mass plays in football,” stated a Kansas writer.

The New York Times editorialized: “A game in which some of the players are almost certain to be knocked senseless is a game in which some of them are very liable to be maimed for life or even to be killed outright.” The Times pegged injuries as mere elemental byproducts, proclaiming “no game so extremely perilous should be permitted to be played.”

Camp weighed in, as supreme powerbroker of football’s maturing enterprise at American universities. Camp said daily practice sessions posed higher risk than games, but he voiced support for new rules to “remove the so-called brutalizing character” of competition.

“There is no doubt that the game as played the last year or two has been attended with a great deal of danger to the players,” Camp stated. “In improving from the old [Rugby Union] game we have admitted the interference [blocking], which is the element of danger in the game. The Englishmen look upon our style of playing with a great deal of abhorrence. Yet it is just that style that has commended the game to the American people and aroused such a great interest in it.”

Camp suggested a “convention” of football representatives from colleges could address the questions, and thus it materialized.

Newspapers soon announced “five football experts” would gather to discuss, draft, and ratify new rules. The 34-year-old Camp was named to the committee, obviously, while the others were likewise young “football men” and former players of the universities represented, Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Pennsylvania, and Wesleyan.

“The football reform movement at last begins to assume a tangible shape,” noted The Evening World, optimistically.

The anointed experts released their new rules in spring 1894, football’s first in the mission of safety for players. Among changes, a kick receiver could signal “fair catch” for avoiding contact; there would be “less use of hands and arms obstructively”; piling on a man when down would be penalized; and a “linesman” was added to field officials.

The focus of attention was Rule 30 (c.), reading as follows: “No momentum mass plays shall be allowed.” An enthusiastic news commentator said “anxious parents, friends and companions” of players could now rest easy, as if football’s dreadful “wedge” action were eliminated.

But that depended on definition and interpretation. “A momentum mass play is where more than three men start before the ball is put into play,” stated a news report. “Nor shall more than three men group for that purpose more than five yards back from the point where the ball is put in play.”

The public expected much from anti-wedge policy, yet football’s safety code produced negligible results during the 1894 season, with collisions still violent and injurious throughout. Critics howled in derision of officials.

New York Evening Post editorial ripped the incorrigible violence of college football, chiding the hypocrisy—or calculated rhetoric—of organizers and supporters who tried to label boxing the only barbaric pastime. The Post opined:

There is one characteristic of the new football which all those who promise us its reform seem to overlook, and that is that it is the only athletic sport which brings the whole bodies of the players into violent collision.

In short, is not the distinction between the ring and college football as played Saturday a distinction without a difference? Is not the attempt to make a [perceived] difference a bit of sophistry of which the champions of the game ought to be ashamed? It is true [the boxer] plays a game which consists in wasting his adversary’s strength so that he can no longer resist.

But how does this differ from college football? Is not the slugging of the enemy’s best men so as to close their eyes, strain their hips, break their noses, and concuss their brains, and thus compel them to withdraw from the field, exactly the pugilist’s policy?

Chicago Tribune editors denounced alleged gridiron reform. “The Football Slugging Match,” the newspaper headlined after Harvard versus Yale. Brutality was “the conspicuous feature of the game,” the report began.

“It was played under new rules, but the new rules were formulated not so much to make the game a test of skill, agility, and endurance as to invite personal encounters and increase the opportunities for slugging. That they worked well is shown by the list of maimed victims. Seven men were more or less severely injured.”

North of the U.S. border, The Winnipeg Tribune followed American debate over tackle football as the sport was introduced in Canada. “And the game is seriously threatened,” the newspaper editorialized, “for it is impossible to ascribe the violence of the contest to any special kind of tactics.”

“Last year the flying wedge and momentum players were made the scapegoat for all the accidents of football. The public was easily deceived… The papers are asking the university authorities what they propose to do about the matter.”

A Chicago preacher wanted impact changes, Rev. J.J. Tobias, who denounced amoral football and collegiate administrations before his Episcopal congregation. “Is football essential to manly sports? Certainly not for physical culture…,” Tobias scoffed, “for our gymnasiums and athletic clubs afford every facility.”

“[Football] is called a science…,” he continued from pulpit, mocking Walter Camp’s frequent claim, “yes, the science of disabling, wearing out, or killing by violent personal concussion of the antagonist. It is the science of brute force.”

Rev. Tobias doubted the courage of universities for standing up to the “football associations” so affluent and omnipotent on campuses nationwide, backed by exploding fan base.

“It is a lack of real moral manliness on the part of the governing powers,” he decried. “There is a mania and rivalry for large numbers on the campus rolls which makes presidents timid and under a compromising policy. It is a betrayal of a holy trust.”

“Will they be brave enough to face the howling mob, or do they shift responsibility?”

1894: Talking Points in Official Denial of Football Injuries

If health reform fell short of protecting football players, the official talk and committee meetings proved to protect the game itself. Policy-making could hardly alleviate risk and casualty for individuals, but rhetorical spin, committee posturing, and suspect cures would ensure survival of the football system.

Cultural historian Michael Oriard analyzed the politics and communication in play, a century after Walter Camp seated himself to direct young coaches and rule-makers he anointed as “experts” for reversing the bloodshed.

“Fewer than a dozen young men, all representing elite universities and relatively privileged classes, controlled the game during those crucial early years of its development,” wrote Oriard, an English professor and former player in college and the NFL, for his book analysis titled Reading Football [1993]. “The creators of American football seem to have had power but little control, as they revised the rules again and again.”

Unavoidable injuries stalked officials who were hapless to find legitimate solution.

“The chronicle of rules made, broken, amended, circumvented, amended again, abused again, in endless cycle, seems to reveal a game that developed without intention, by simple necessity after an initial accident,” Oriard concluded of the football’s first half-century, after his research of Golden Press newspapers and magazines.

“Once the scrimmage line and the five-yard rule were instituted (by young men unable to anticipate the consequences), subsequent revisions were required to guarantee them, then to modify them as they became unworkable.”

Officials’ revision of injury information also occurred, involving early incidents of brain trauma.

A rash of athlete calamities befell Yale football in 1885. Aspiring player John Arnot Palmer collapsed and died of a brain aneurysm, one day removed from football practice. Most doctors at autopsy believed “violent exercise” of the sport led to the blood vessel’s bursting, according to first news. Yale physician William O. Ayres contested their conclusion, however, dismissing football as a factor; the pathology findings instead indicated that kidney disease spurred Palmer’s cerebral bleed, Ayres announced to press.

Following the death, two Yale players collided with “fearful force” at practice, injuring one. Halfback W.R. Crawford was “knocked off his feet, landing heavily on his back and head,” reported The Chicago Inter Ocean. “He was removed to his room and medical aid summoned.” Crawford lay “unconscious for about two hours,” the newspaper continued. “He is reported… as being all right.”

Yale football officials, headed by Camp, were described as “reticent about the affair.”

Camp, if never experiencing brain trauma himself in football, evidently saw the condition as a player, coach, and referee. Writing of his freshman year as Yale player, 1876, Camp recalled “stunning” an opponent with his tackle, causing momentarily unconsciousness. Thirteen years later, Camp refereed a college game in New York when a Wesleyan player was “knocked insensible” and continued competing. Moreover, numerous Yale players and opponents were publicly identified as concussion casualties during Camp’s decades at the university.

Evidence suggests Camp understood both danger of brain injury and potential ramifications for tackle football. A recorded game incident of TBI ended up omitted from his 1894 book, Football Facts and Figures, which Watterson [2002] ripped as “a resoundingly pro-football polemic” containing “a barrage of football propaganda.”

“Anyone who read Camp’s book, especially the introductory excerpts, might come away wondering what all the critical fuss was about. According to the ‘facts and figures’ so authoritatively interpreted, no one suffered permanent injuries, and all but a cranky handful agreed that football’s virtues outweighed its shortcomings.”

Camp had solicited input from players, and one recalled suffering brain trauma. Former Penn captain William Harvey wrote to Camp that he suffered “serious injury” during a game in 1883, when “I was knocked insensible but recovered in about fifteen minutes.”

But Harvey’s record of brain concussion was ignored for publication of the book, which would be “cited for decades as reliable evidence supporting continuation of the game through controversy and reform,” observed modern researcher Emily A. Harrison.

“Harvey’s response was included in Football Facts and Figures, but only in part,” Harrison revealed of her investigation. “On his original letter, preserved in Camp’s papers at Yale University, Harvey’s description of his head injury has been blatantly crossed out in crayon.”

No one could control football violence, but public perspective could be shaped, and a template of official rhetoric was printed in concert with Camp’s book.

Eugene Lamb Richards, Yale math professor whose sons starred in football for the university, writing for Popular Mechanics in 1894, outlined the talking points of safer football that endure today, including the following assurances:

Qualified trainers and doctors will patrol sidelines.

State-of-art medical care will treat the rare grave casualties.

Injury tracking will cut rates already in decline.

Coaches will properly train players.

Players will be medically prescreened.

Experts will research and ratify rules.

Referees will enforce rules of the experts.

Players will follow rules of the experts.

Richards’ timeless essay of football advocacy channeled further assertions of Camp:

News media exaggerate gridiron injuries.

Football teaches teamwork and courage, builds mind and body.

Football is part-and-parcel of a complete education.

Football saves urban or underprivileged boys from the streets.

Football teaches manhood to boys everywhere.

Football provides healthy catharsis for male aggression.

Serious casualties are genetically predisposed to injury, too weak in their resistance.

Not surprisingly, Richards also penned the introduction to Camp’s book.

“Walter Camp worked with fellow supporters of football to stave off critics and to create a climate of opinion favorable to the college game,” Watterson wrote.

Harrison critically noted: “Camp and the [rules] committee set to work saving the game through persuasive selection of evidence, technical reform, and pressure on college administrators and faculty.”

Yale football men apparently exerted campus clout at New Haven in 1894, for a football revolt over the notorious game with Harvard. The Associated Press reported anonymous members of the Yale faculty said “pugilistic brutality of the game must be stopped,” adding they would ensure cancellation of the university’s pending game with Princeton.

Campus football leaders immediately refuted the story, announcing Princeton remained on schedule. “Captain Hickey of Yale and his football [teammates] are back to hard practice again,” newspapers stated. “The report that was circulated, saying the Yale faculty would forbid the game with the Tigers… is denied.”

1890s: Football Brain Risks Documented in News

Camp’s description of TBI symptoms in an opponent he tackled in 1876 stands among earliest reported incidents of American football, according to texts available in electronic search. Newspapers publicized “concussion of the brain” in football stories by 1885, such as the year’s aforementioned incident at Yale, the practice collision that concussed a player.

In period lexicon, the term concussion could mean anything from cerebral dysfunction to lethal hemorrhaging. Journalists routinely attributed concussion to players who were rendered comatose or killed, but many doctors knew the condition typically presented with symptoms such as headaches, confusion, memory loss, “delirium,” and temporary unconsciousness, if any.

Organized medicine of the late 19th century encountered concussed football players galore. The gory spectacle achieved wide appeal for its colliding combatants, fighting headlong over a ball—“contact ballet… annihilation hanging in the balance,” Oriard wrote—constituting a fertile culture for brain impacts that likely topped horseback riding, among riskiest endeavors.

“For the idea of the modern football captain…,” intoned The San Francisco Morning Call, praising the game, “is to fling such a force upon the holder of the ball that [the ball carrier] shall be knocked down, and probably knocked senseless.”

“EIGHT PLAYERS KNOCKED SENSELESS,” blared a newspaper headline in 1891, after Purdue University defeated Wabash College, 44 to 0. During another game in Indiana, a football-playing college professor “fell on his head and was knocked senseless.”

Men and boys were “knocked senseless” in football from Manhattan Island to the Hawaiian Islands, newspapers revealed, and many more were medically diagnosed with “mild” or “slight concussion,” such as Harvard captain Bert Waters in 1893. The star guard was injured against Yale and removed from the game, then sidelined for his team’s season finale versus Pennsylvania.

A Minneapolis football crowd of 1894 witnessed a “peculiar feature” when University of Wisconsin quarterback Theron Lyman bumbled around behind center, forgetting signals and directions, beset with his repetitive brain injuries. “He did the same thing at Chicago, and it is due to a concussion of the brain some time ago,” reported The St. Paul Globe.

That season’s infamous Harvard-Yale game—with Camp serving as umpire—produced a “slight concussion” for Fred Murphy, a Yale tackle rendered unconscious for hours. Murphy returned to football practice within days and played in the next game.

Many if not most head injuries in football’s plodding scrums occurred of rips, falls, kicks, and crushes. In 1895, Central University halfback Will Lyon took a foe’s foot to his head and was transported by coach ambulance to the team hotel. “There he lost consciousness and did not regain sensibility until about 7:30 o’clock last evening,” reported the Sunday morning Louisville Courier-Journal. “It is thought he suffered slight concussion of the brain, but will be able to leave for Richmond today.”

Many doctors loved football and medical schools fielded teams nationwide. In 1896, the “football eleven” of the Chicago College of Physicians and Surgeons met Beloit College for a brawling contest in Wisconsin. The Daily Tribune described the game as “one of the wickedest in the matter of slugging that was ever played anywhere,” continuing:

The doctors outweighed Beloit and seemed to want to kill someone and do it quickly and so began slugging from the start and it was not long before the rough work was not confined to one side by any means. …

As the [scoreless] game was drawing to a close Hansell, one of the doctors, who had put up a fine game as left half-back, began to act queer and was taken off the field, when he became unconscious and lay in that condition for several hours, but is recovering now. Some think he suffered from concussion of the brain.

The Yale team doctor diagnosed at least one concussion casualty that season, halfback Hamilton F. Benjamin, who was flattened against Princeton and “kicked in the forehead,” stated a news report. Benjamin “received a contused scalp and slight concussion of the brain, injuries not necessarily serious.”

A headshot rocked a Chicago schoolboy quarterback in 1899, causing “temporary insanity,” per a report. “He raved several hours before he could be calmed. It is feared he suffered concussion of the brain.”

Medical authorities referred to a “second consciousness” for victims of brain concussion. Doctors said the injury was “frequent in football, when a player is sometimes knocked out, apparently recovers, plays out the game, and comes to himself only after a considerable period, remembering nothing in the interval,” reported The New York Times.

1900: Do Football Helmets Cause or Prevent Trauma?

By 1893 in New York City, capital of football universe, “an epidemic” of long-haired men struck a fashion statement. “On the streets, in the theatres, in cafes, and everywhere where people gather together, may be seen flowing locks adorning the heads of men of all kinds,” The Boston Post relayed. “This capillary profusion is particularly noticeable in the case of young men.”

Football players with press popularity had started the trend, although initially not for looks; they simply believed that growing hair long protected them from head injuries on the gridiron. “From the time he begins practice early in the fall until the last goal has been kicked in November, the collegiate player does not indulge in the luxury of a hair cut,” stated The New Orleans Times-Picayune. ”This hirsute matting does not add to his personal attractiveness, but it protects the player’s head from cold and injury.”

Princeton All-American quarterback Phil King drew media attention for his blonde curls’ covering ears and eyes like “a huge chrysanthemum.” King bragged to writers he could “butt a stone wall” without concern of skull fracture or brain concussion.

Hair padding aside, football already favored firmer countermeasures for protection above neckline. Harvard players wore the patented Cumnock nose mask, designed of rubber by a former team captain, and the material had been taken further by a contemporary player, Charles Mackenzie at Princeton, a talented, injured backfield mate of King.

The speedy Mackenzie was attempting a football comeback from brain trauma, after a physician sidelined him a year for “a severe blow on the head… which if repeated the doctor fears might result seriously,” newspapers reported. Mackenzie now donned “a head protector made of hard rubber and can go into the thickest of the fight without fear of any serious result.”

Other types of football “headgear” or helmets were developing too, but protection for ramming athletes remained elusive.

In 1896, for example, the University of Kansas football team added William Baine, a Sioux Indian recruited away from Haskell Institute. Baine was stocky, fast, intelligent, but at KU he suffered multiple brain injuries.

On Oct. 31, Baine was “laid out by a fierce tackle” against the Kansas City Medics, stated a news report. “After that he did not know what he was doing. The doctors said he was in a bad way and feared concussion of the brain.”

Baine’s symptoms of “slight concussion” persisted the next week, recalled the Kansas quarterback decades later, Dr. Bert Kennedy, a dentist. The KU coaches were former players at Princeton, where padded “harness” to cover head, ears, and nose had been constructed for years. Kennedy said “we fashioned a padded canvas headpiece to protect [Baine].”

“It was the first football helmet I ever saw.”

That Saturday Kansas met rival Nebraska and Baine scored his team’s first touchdown. Then KU played to hold the lead: “We were trying to stall and I called a right end run merely to get the ball in the middle of the field,” Kennedy said. “The Indian protested that his head ached and he couldn’t run. But he traveled 60 yards to a touchdown so fast the Nebraskans never laid a hand on him.”

The Kansas squad beat Nebraska but unfortunately would experience a worst-case scenario of repeated brain injuries in football—victimizing an opposing player, Bert Serf of Doane College.

Serf was trampled by a Kansas “rush line” on Nov. 14, attempting a goal-line tackle. He did not regain consciousness and died that night. “The injury was to the back of his head, and concussion of the brain doubtless caused his death,” reported The Lawrence Weekly World.

“The attending physicians are confident that [Serf] died largely from the effects of a previous injury. It is known that in a game at Tarkio, Mo., he was seriously hurt, and from that time he should have been taken off the gridiron.”

Serf apparently played without headgear despite his “similar concussions,” but Baine’s helmet could not have shielded his repetitive trauma, either.

Baine played college football almost a decade for various institutions, often as a mercenary athlete—and with a progressively “primitive temper,” observed historian Tom Benjey. Once Baine was ejected from a game for raging and throwing the football at a referee’s face.

Baine died at 29, while firing a pistol during a drunken binge in his native Fort Sisseton, S.D.; a night watchman shot him to death. “William Baine’s short, but eventful, life ended violently,” wrote Benjey [2008]. “One cannot wonder if his ‘mild concussion of the brain’ had anything to do with his end.”

A football death in 1897 refueled debate over brutality. University of Georgia player Von Gammon died of brain injury sustained in a game, incurring outrage of football critics. The Pittsburgh Daily Post opined:

A conservative medical journal, the Philadelphia “Medical Record,” makes a weighty deliverance against football. The “Record” holds that the game as now played ought not to be allowed, on the grounds that it can no longer be viewed in the light of innocent recreative amusement, with harmless and healthful athletics as its object; but that, even with “slugging” ruled out, it is “productive of the greatest variety of surgical injuries to every part of the body,” and that the effect of such injuries is life-long in a large proportion of cases.

The Georgia legislature hastily passed a bill to ban football, which the governor considered for a month before declining to sign it. The governor said his decision finalized on letter from the dead player’s mother, imploring him to keep football alive for the state.

The next year, a helmet manufacturer released a model that “completely protects the head and ears,” announced a news item. “The crown of it is made of tough sole leather, filled with air holes and lined with soft felt. It is believed that the helmet will be generally worn by members of all the big teams this year.”

But TBI continued on football fields, and coaches and doctors clearly understood the gravity of such injury, if not the biological mechanisms. And “protective” equipment only exacerbated health risks, with adoption of stiff leather helmets and metallic masks, along with hard pads for shoulders, elbows, hips and knees

“It has been charged that these things have been brought into use not so much to provide protection for the wearers as to inflict injury upon opponents, and there is a general cry that there have been more injuries and bruises this fall because of this armor than ever before,” The Fort Wayne Daily News reported in 1900, continuing:

Cameron Forbes and Ben Dibblee, Harvard’s leading coaches, say that a good headpiece gives to a man increased confidence and tends to make him strike an opponent with his head instead of his shoulder in bucking the line.

The Princeton coaches, on the other hand, favor all kinds of helmets and harness. They argue that headpieces are necessary because the injuries to the head are generally of a far more lasting and serious nature than those received in other parts of the body.

As the 1890s brought American football’s first crisis over brutality, the turn of the century would mark “The First Concussion Crisis,” which is title of Emily A. Harrison’s ground-breaking review for American Journal of Public Health in 2014. Harrison researched the article while completing her doctorate degree in science history at Harvard.

“Contrary to popular opinion, concussions are not a recent discovery in football, and this recent upwelling is not the first coming of the concussion crisis in American sports,” Harrison cautioned. “It emerged more than a century ago, in the very first decades of football.”

Matt Chaney is an author, editor, and consultant on public issues in sport, specializing in American football. Chaney, MA in media studies, is a former college football player and coach whose books include Spiral of Denial: Muscle Doping in American Football, self-published in 2009. Chaney’s study for graduate thesis, co-published with the University of Central Missouri in 2001, analyzed print sport-media coverage of anabolic substances in football from 1983-1999. Email him at mattchaney@fourwallspublishing.com or visit the website for more information.

NFL Deaths Reflect Inept Care and Record-Keeping

Since 1960 at least 16 NFL players have died of injury, a game-related condition or a possible link to football, impacted by inadequate medical management. Meanwhile, “public football” stokes a hot Q&A with Irv Muchnick, the iconoclastic sports journalist whose new book chronicles fall of the game as we know it.

By Matt Chaney

Posted Saturday, February 28, 2015

Copyright ©2015 by Matthew L. Chaney

In 1960 America, a football player was not only exposed to lethal injury and illness of the extreme sport. Once a casualty, he was vulnerable to shoddy medical response as well, beginning in professional football.

A worst-case scenario unfolded October 9th in the new American Football League, amid a sweltering Sunday on the Texas seaboard, where the Houston Oilers hosted the New York Titans—the NFL’s Tennessee Titans and New York Jets franchises today, respectively.

Air temperature topped 90 degrees with dense humidity for the 1 p.m. kickoff at Jeppesen Stadium, and early in the game Howard Glenn, an offensive guard for New York, was struggling to stay on his feet.

Teammates thought heat was affecting Glenn in the first quarter, when he complained repeatedly in huddles. Titans offensive tackle Ernie Barnes urged Glenn to stay in the game since coaches wouldn’t allow him to stop and sit. Team trainers would support the coaches, Barnes reminded his buddy, and no doctor made the road trip from New York.

Collisions on the field were viscous, meanwhile. Football’s head-on contact had steadily increased since advent of hard plastic helmets during World War II. Face bars became standard by the mid-1950s, when physics, technology and human will converged to make head bashing commonplace in the game.

In 1960, Howard Glenn donned a double-barred face mask on his helmet. The muscular 6-foot-2, 245-pounder fired low into foes at scrimmage, neck forward and face-first—in the law of modern football—and sometime around halftime at Houston, two opposing linemen smashed Glenn between them.

Clearly injured, Glenn rose unsteadily. No stretcher was available on the Titans sideline so a teammate helped him off the field, but head coach Sammy Baugh ordered Glenn back to the huddle, witnesses later told The Houston Chronicle.

Accounts vary whether Glenn played in the second half, which he basically spent on the sideline. A spectator recalled seeing Glenn wandering near the Titans bench in a daze, unattended.

No one realized Glenn’s neck was broken, with a fractured cervical vertebra just below his brain.

Trainers helped Glenn to the locker room after the game. He undressed and sat nude on a metal folding chair, clutching a towel and quivering in labored breaths. A teammate, Art Powell, yelled at the trainers: “Why in hell don’t you get a doctor to him?”

Glenn deteriorated rapidly. The Associated Press would report he became “belligerent in the clubhouse then hysterical” as he fell from the chair, convulsing.

Two Houston doctors were summoned and Glenn was finally taken to a local hospital at 5:30 p.m., while rest of the New York team headed for the airport.

Within an hour Titans players learned Glenn had died, as their plane sat on a runway, and tackle Ernie Barnes wept in his seat. The two young black men had bonded as friends in Glenn’s short time with the team, especially for art, a mutual love. Now Barnes remembered their final scene together: Glenn stricken on the locker room floor as teammates rushed out from showers, dripping wet.

“The news shook my heart,” Barnes later wrote. “The hurt deepened and all I could see in my mind was Glenn’s body lying in the water on the cement floor. He died a lonely death. It took time and reasoning for me to get over Howard’s death… it enters my mind often.”

Authorities were perplexed for Howard Glenn’s case, initially. According to a Houston team doctor “Glenn wasn’t hurt in the game or… his injuries were not serious enough to be noticed,” reported The AP.

Some Titans officials readily discounted football as a factor, speaking with media that first night, and many observers believed heatstroke caused the fatality, Barnes among them.

But the next day an autopsy revealed Glenn’s neck had crumbled apart in the hours after injury, primarily because Titans staff failed to recognize or diagnose. Harris County medical examiner Dr. Joseph Jachimczyk said “the fracture was very near Glenn’s brain and did happen during Sunday’s game,” reported The AP. “He said death was not instantaneous because the edges of the fractured bone had to cut the spinal cord before death occurred.”

Jachimczyk remarked, “The unusual thing about these cases is not the quickness of death but that the victims even live at all.”

Glenn was buried at Louisville Cemetery in Mississippi, his native Winton County. Besides AFL experience, Glenn played for the New York Giants of the NFL and the Hamilton Tiger Cats in the CFL. Earlier, at Linfield College in Oregon, Glenn starred in football and track and field.

Following the tragedy, Barnes requested his release from Titans brass. “I told them I didn’t want to play on a team like this,” he said. Barnes retired from professional football in 1965 and his career as an artist blossomed; he died in 2009.

Contemporary blogger Bill McCurdy concluded that Glenn in 1960 was “a victim of the times and what can happen to those who play football under the worst of circumstances—or even the best of conditions.”


In American football today, detection and treatment of heartbeat arrhythmias and more cardiac malfunctions in young players remain inadequate, most experts agree. But football was primitive about managing cardiac risk during the Vietnam War era.

The NFL was no exception for lax action despite exploding revenues and expanding resources over TV rights and its merger with the former AFL. No uniform policy for cardiac management existed, basically.

League and franchise officials certainly knew young athletes suffered “heart attack,” in the catch-all term. Medical literature was plentiful by 1970 while sports pages and television reported cardiac incidents from multiple activities, regularly, led by basketball and football. Historically, two NFL players had died after games, Stan Mauldin and Dave Sparks, in the decade following World War II.

Moreover, the Detroit Lions had experienced recent cardiac fatalities off the field. Promising Lions tackle Lucien Reeberg, 21, died in the 1964 offseason [see below] while free-agent line prospect Ed Schreck, 23, was briefly under contract before he succumbed during heart surgery in 1968.

Yet the Detroit franchise stood unprepared for a third event, in 1971, and this time on national television. Chuck Hughes, 28, a 6-foot, 180-pound wide receiver for the Lions, was naturally gifted to catch a football. But a genetic heart defect stopped the blonde Texan on Oct. 24, apparently triggered by physical exertion.

Nearing end of the Sunday NFL telecast, Chicago at Detroit, Hughes dropped face-down after a pass pattern, “twitching uncontrollably,” a witness said, as a crowed of 54,419 “silently watched.”

Television viewers were horrified. “They turned the TV cameras on him [Hughes] for us until the spirit left him,” Barnard Collier would write for Esquire magazine, “and then they turned away.”

Time was precious for Hughes but Lions doctors had to be waved onto the field, by Bears linebacker Dick Butkus, because of a silly league rule. Then they could only roll Hughes over, pound his chest and deliver mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, unsure about his distress. An off-duty anesthesiologist charged out of the stands, like he could help.

While the Lions had prepared meticulously for playing the Bears, down to practicing Sudden change! for a turnover, no medical procedure was in place for sudden cardiac collapse of a player.

The impromptu treatment of Hughes was crude, futile, pathetic. Apparently there was no electronic defibrillator machine, state-of-art treatment for cardiac victims, on the premises at Tiger Stadium.

The football player was dying, his wife Sharon realized from the stands, and she began screaming. “After what seemed forever, Hughes was placed on a stretcher,” spectator Richard Bak later recalled.

An ambulance came onto the field and Sharon Hughes was summoned from the stands for ride to the hospital. But with everyone loaded, ambulance drivers groped for the misplaced ignition key. At this point Sharon figured it was too late for her husband.

“She stared at what the doctors were doing and she watched as Chuck’s ear turned slowly black and blue,” Collier recounted for Esquire. “Now she knew that Chuck was beyond reviving. After that, time slowed so much that hurrying did not matter. She kept thinking about their marriage and how much Chuck was in love with football.”

At the hospital, defibrillator shocks were administered but no heartbeat restored. Machines kept Hughes alive until he was pronounced dead at 4:41 p.m., an hour after the Lions game ended.

Team doctors still couldn’t pinpoint cause of death, whether it occurred at the heart or brain. “I’ve never seen anything like it in professional football,” said Dr. Edwin Guise, Lions physician.

Franchise owner William Clay Ford expressed bafflement. “I’m horrified and shocked. He [Hughes] was a great player and a great person,” Ford said.

An autopsy confirmed hardened arteries caused the coronary malfunction in Hughes, who had family history of heart disease.

In fact, Hughes had been tested for heart trouble months before his death, by cardio specialists at Henry Ford Hospital. Hughes was hospitalized again for chest pains in the preseason, after being crushed by tacklers in an exhibition game, but tests were negative and he returned to the football field.

Sharon Hughes, widowed with a toddler son, ultimately won a settlement of undisclosed amount from Ford Hospital. Her lawsuit against the facility and unnamed doctors alleged a heart problem had been detected but “they willfully and wantonly” failed to inform Chuck.

“The defendants well knew that Hughes was a professional athlete and as such was required to engage in strenuous physical activity not advisable for one who had suffered heart damage,” the complaint stated.

Sharon Hughes also won a $43,250 claim for workman’s compensation. Insurance representatives of the Lions, bound to indemnify the franchise for court losses and costs, had argued the death of her husband was unrelated to football.


From 1960 to 2010, at least 16 active or contracted NFL players died of a) football injuries, b) game-related conditions or c) possible link to the sport.

The annotated cases below are deaths of those players in the NFL and former AFL, collected in my ongoing review of news reports on casualties in football history. The incidents are harvested largely through electronic search of news databases.

I make no medical claim of the information and little for its scientific value. This qualifies as raw data, news content, comprising case leads in need of expert follow-up by multi-disciplinary specialists of medicine and science, particularly for establishing or dismissing a football link in the majority of incidents.

No qualified epidemiological team has ever been assembled and funded to reliably assess fatality rates of vast American football—none—despite a purported entity at the University of North Carolina, the so-called National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research,  funded by the American Football Coaches Association, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the National Federation of State High School Associations, and the National Athletic Trainers’ Association.

The NCCSIR has no facility of street address on campus. Officials have declined to answer my email queries since 2011.

Presently, 8 of 16 NFL cases below are omitted from “total” football statistics self-published by the sports academics representing UNC in Chapel Hill. None of the cases involves cancer, drug overdose or suicide. Likely some omitted cases can be verified as game-related, still, by credible researchers. Others probably cannot be accurately assessed for a football link, either way.

Deaths of NFL and AFL players in the last 55 years include the following cases available in news reports:

1960: Howard Glenn, 26, a 6-foot-2, 245-pound offensive guard for the New York Titans, of the AFL, died on Oct. 9 of a broken neck sustained in a game with the Houston Oilers. [See story above.]

1960: Ralph Anderson, 24, a 6-4, 225-pound wide receiver for the San Diego Chargers, was a rising star in pro football and subject of a “tampering” lawsuit against his AFL team by the Chicago franchise of the NFL. But the talented athlete was diabetic, challenged to stay in the lineup, and in early November he missed a Chargers game. Anderson came back with big performances but was stricken again as he lay down on Friday night, Nov. 25. Anderson was found dead the next morning, and an autopsy ruled diabetic seizure as the cause. The athlete was survived by a 3-year-old daughter, and when the Chargers later played in the AFL championship game, the team voted that Anderson’s share of player proceeds be presented to his girl. Head coach Sid Gillman also gave his share to the child. Sources: Associated Press and United Press International.

*The death of Ralph Anderson was either missed or deemed unrelated to football by game-funded reviewers. His case is not included in 1960 football fatality data posted without scientific vetting on a website from UNC-Chapel Hill.

1961: John Sherer, 20, a 6-3, 240-pound defensive tackle on the inactive list of the New York Titans, had foregone college football at the University of Miami after being drafted by the AFL. Sherer was a schoolboy legend in his native Pennsylvania, where he led a team of prep all-stars to victory over a squad of standouts from other states. Sherer barely missed making 1961 Titans roster, cut on the last day in training camp, so he played semipro football in hopes of getting a call from New York during the season. But on Sept. 26 Sherer collapsed and died following a gym workout in Philadelphia, of a reported heart malfunction. Sources: New Castle News and Associated Press.

1963: Stone Johnson, 23, a 6-1, 180-pound running back for the Kansas City Chiefs, AFL, was touted as one of the fastest men in pro football. Johnson had been a sprinter for the U.S. Olympic team in Rome and a football player for Grambling College. He left college football after being drafted by the AFL, but he suffered a broken neck as a Chiefs rookie, trying to tackle in an exhibition game against the Houston Oilers on Aug. 31. Emergency surgery stabilized fracture of the C5 vertebra and Johnson was placed in traction, but the spinal-cord nerve bundle was damaged and he died on Sept. 8. Some in football alluded to individual fault for the tragedy. Game officials were touting “head up technique,” their new theory for headless hitting, and the Football Coaches Association’s anointed death researcher chimed in, Floyd R. Eastwood. As a PE professor who went by “Dr. Eastwood” with the press, this college teacher held only a PhD in education, far short of a medical or science doctorate and follow-up certifications. Nevertheless, Eastwood routinely promoted untested concepts for casualty prevention in football—parroted widely by sportswriters—that placed responsibility primarily on individuals, not the system. Following Johnson’s death in 1963, Eastwood said “degree of skill” could dictate mortality of a football player, without mentioning the field physics of forward colliding in shatterproof headgear and pads. “Most injuries are sustained while blocking or tackling and if more players were trained properly in these respects, fatalities would take a sharp decline,” Eastwood declared. Sources: Associated Press and United Press International.

1964: Lucien Reeberg Jr., 21, a 6-4, 300-plus offensive tackle for the Detroit Lions, NFL, was a rising star publicized as the “baby-faced giant” of pro football. But Reeberg was unhealthy, ballooning as high as 317 pounds. Hospitalized in Detroit, Reeberg died of cardiac arrest caused by chronic kidney disease on Jan. 31, 1964. Reportedly the Lions had wanted Reeberg evaluated for weight loss when he mentioned blood in his urine to a nurse. Team physician Dr. Richard Thompson said, “The disease [uremia] will crop up one day and not the next, and as a result of this, the young people tend to ignore the disease.” Reeberg, a native of Bronx, N.Y., had played college football for Hampton Institute, which he left after being drafted by the NFL. In 2011, blogger Bill Dow interviewed Reeberg’s old roommate, former Lions linebacker Ernie Clark. “Lucien was Christmas morning,” said Clark. “I think about him all the time, and after he passed away my heart really wasn’t into football and I’ve never been the same.” Sources: Jet magazine, Blog.DetroitAthletic.com, Newspaper Enterprise Association, Associated Press and United Press International.

*The death of Lucien Reeberg was either missed or deemed unrelated to football by game-funded academics. His case is not included in 1964 football fatality data posted without scientific vetting on a website from UNC-Chapel Hill.

1965: Mack Lee Hill, 25, a 5-11, 235-pound running back for the Kansas City Chiefs, averaged 5.2 yards a carry over two seasons in the AFL. Nicknamed “The Truck,” Hill suffered torn knee ligaments in a game and underwent surgery on Dec. 14. Complications developed, spiking Hill’s temperature to 108 degrees and causing respiratory distress and convulsions. Hill died on the operating table of a pulmonary embolism, blood clotting blocking lung circulation, attending doctors told the AP. But differing expert opinion followed, regarding a football link or none, as in hundreds of player deaths since the 1960s. The Kansas City Star reported that an autopsy by hospital pathologist Dr. O. Dale Smith involved “interesting speculation” to blame a rare form of heatstroke unrelated to football. Smith noted further research was needed, but he concluded “that the very strength of young Hill, especially his powerful musculature, contributed to his vulnerability to a temperature crisis in his body” during anesthetic and surgical stress, The Star reported. Football-funded analysts like Eastwood, however, apparently classified the Hill case as game-related of “indirect” cause.

1969: Frank Buncom Jr., 29, a 6-2, 235-pound linebacker for the Cincinnati Bengals, was a three-time all-star in the AFL and looking forward to the new season. Then blood clotting lodged in his lung arteries early on Sept. 14, Sunday morning of the opening game. Buncom’s gasping rousted his roommate in the team hotel, but the athlete died before medical help arrived. The linebacker and his wife Sarah had an infant son, Frank Buncom III, and an education trust fund for the child was established by players of the Bengals and the San Diego Chargers, Buncom’s former team. Decades later, 2015, the late AFL star’s grandson, Frank Buncom IV, committed to play college football for Stanford University. Sources: UTSanDiego.com, Associated Press and United Press International.

1971: Charles “Chuck” Hughes, 28, a 6-foot, 180-pound wide receiver for the Detroit Lions, died of a coronary attack suffered during a game against the Chicago Bears on Oct. 24. [See account above.]

1979: James Victor “J.V.” Cain, 28, a 6-4, 225-pound tight end for the St. Louis Cardinals, was “a perfect physical specimen” who passed a preseason physical “in great shape,” reported The Associated Press. But Cain collapsed in humid 85-degree weather the night of July 22, after running a pass pattern without contact at training camp in St. Charles, Mo. Team doctors and trainers administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation to Cain, working without a defibrillator machine. “When [75 players] saw that CPR was started, it just got dead silent,” said Cards spokesman Steve Curran. “At one point, Coach [Bud] Wilkinson had the players on a line in prayer. They kept yelling, ‘Come on, J.V., come on, J.V.’ There were tears. It was very emotional.” Cain, a 6-year team veteran, was pronounced dead at a local hospital 90 minutes after he was stricken on the football field. A pathologist concluded the cause of death was cardiac arrest from an “extremely rare congenital condition” known as myocardial fibrosis. Sources: Associated Press, United Press International and Washington Post.

*The death of J.V. Cain was either missed or deemed unrelated to football by game-funded academics. His case is not included in 1979 football fatality data posted without scientific vetting on a website from UNC-Chapel Hill.

1980: Melvin Johnson Jr., 25, a 6-foot, 175-pound running back for the Kansas City Chiefs was an undrafted prospect the team had a penchant for signing and developing, like Mack Lee Hill before. Unfortunately, Johnson ended up mindful of the Hill tragedy [above] when he too died during routine surgery in Kansas City, in his case for a wrist fracture of football. Surgeon Dr. James Whitaker said cardiac arrest caused the death. Johnson had ranked among the nation’s fastest teenagers during high school in Louisiana, and he played college football for the University of Colorado. The Chiefs signed Johnson as a free agent in 1979 but he spent the season on the disabled list, never appearing in an NFL game. “We had very high hopes for him,” said Chiefs spokesman Doug Kelly. “He had good ability and a great deal of speed. We thought his chances of making the team [in 1980] were very good.” The deceased athlete’s younger brother, Troy Johnson, later played four seasons in the NFL. Sources: United Press International, Salina Journal, Thibodaux Daily Comet and HoumaToday.com.

*The death of Melvin Johnson Jr. was either missed or deemed unrelated to football by game-funded academics. His case is not included in 1980 football fatality data posted without scientific vetting on a website from UNC-Chapel Hill.

1983: Larry Gordon, 28, a 6-4, 230-pound linebacker for the Miami Dolphins, was a highly regarded player who helped lead his teams to playoff victories and a Super Bowl, flashing brilliance throughout his seven-year career. Dolphins coach Don Shula still expected greatness from Gordon, his former No.1 draft pick from Arizona State gifted in athleticism and physique. On June 25, amid desert heat at 6 p.m., Gordon was jogging in preparation for upcoming NFL training camp when he collapsed near a relative’s home in Arizona, said police. Gordon, a Florida resident married with two children, was pronounced dead at a Phoenix hospital. An autopsy by medical examiner Dr. Heinz Karnitschnig identified the cause as congenital heart disease, idiopathic cardiomyopathy. “His coronary artery was in perfect shape. He didn’t have a heart attack,” said Bob Edwards, of the Maricopa County morgue. Toxicology exams found no drugs in the body; specifically, no cocaine was detected in a gall bladder sample. In 1986, as cocaine toxicity killed athletes in the NCAA and NFL, the question arose publicly regarding Gordon’s case. His brother Ira Gordon, a Phoenix drug counselor and former NFL player, told The Arizona Republic that evidence of cocaine use was found in a bedroom that Larry occupied at time of his death. Ira said he had personally requested the autopsy and toxicology assays that tested negative for narcotics. Sources: Arizona Republic, Miami Herald, Associated Press and United Press International.

*The death of Larry Gordon was either missed or deemed unrelated to football by game-funded reviewers. His case is not included in 1983 football fatality data posted without scientific vetting on a website from UNC-Chapel Hill.

1998: Leon Bender, 22, a 6-5, 300-pound draft pick at defensive tackle for the Oakland Raiders, suffered fatal mishap at his agent’s home in Atlanta on May 30, following team mini camp. An epileptic, Bender died on a bathroom floor at some point before a scheduled workout. Autopsy results were inconclusive while toxicology results were negative for drugs and alcohol. Bender had talked on the phone to family members until 3 a.m., including his wife Liza, before being discovered dead about noon. Bender’s epilepsy wasn’t lethal in itself, and a single episode couldn’t be detected postmortem—neither could some forms of cardiac malfunction. What was known, a grand mal epileptic had no body control in a seizure, which Bender’s family members believed he experienced in the bathroom then suffocated for his landing position and obstructions. Leon and Liza Bender had a 2-year-old daughter at time of his passing. Source: Associated Press.

*The death of Leon Bender was either missed or deemed unrelated to football by game-funded academics. His case is not included in 1998 football fatality data posted without scientific vetting on a website from UNC-Chapel Hill.

2001: Korey Stringer, 27, a 6-4, 335-pound offensive tackle for the Minnesota Vikings, reported to training camp as an All-Pro from the previous season. Oppressive heat enveloped most of the country as the Vikings opened workouts on Aug. 1 in Mankato, Minn. Several players struggled through drills and Stringer faltered and vomited, having to sit out. Next morning, Stringer was back on the field in full pads until collapsing amid 98-degree temperature and stifling humidity. By the time Stringer was transported to a hospital he was comatose with a body temperature of 108 degrees. Organs began failing, including both kidneys, until finally the heartbeat stopped, unable to be revived. Stringer was pronounced dead about 2 a.m. on Aug. 3, and public debate erupted. Vikings coaches met with media while Stringer’s teammates were kept off-limits for interviews. Head coach Dennis Green suggested the players preferred public silence. “It’s a private thing and they deserve their privacy,” said Green, who snapped at a reporter for questioning whether team medical personnel should be available. “We chose not to,” Green replied. “I’m not going to discuss that… so you can step back.” Offensive line coach Mike Tice said a newspaper photo spurred the tragedy, not decisions of the coaching staff, by shaming Stringer when camp opened, picturing him doubled over at the sideline, looking weak. So the prideful Stringer came back the next day “out to prove to people that he was a leader and that he wasn’t going to let anybody embarrass him like that,” Tice said. “It’s very unfortunate that he worked himself to death.” Elsewhere, football’s anointed death researcher, exercise professor Fred Mueller at UNC, withheld blame of Vikings staff when pressed on CNN by news anchor Carol Lin. “I just heard about this… I don’t really know any of the details,” said Mueller, demurring as the so-called expert who’d agreed to discuss the case on international television. Despite heavy evidence of heatstroke and negligence on part of the football system, “Dr. Mueller”—funded by football organs, with his PhD in education—speculated about the individual, Stringer, saying “there’s a possibility it could be attributed to some other health problems.” But Mueller would have to include this highly publicized death in his next “study” from Chapel Hill. Postmortem investigation including autopsy left no question that heatstroke killed Stringer, driven by lack of policy and prevention on part of the Vikings and NFL. Heat illness plagued every football level, contributing to deaths of an arena player, college player and a high-school player the same week as Stringer, and critics assailed the sport. Football officials had promised since 1960 to eliminate heat illness that experts declared was completely preventable—but practices and games had only come to start earlier in hot weather, over decades, and necessary measures weren’t standardized such as sideline ice bath in a kiddie pool. In August 2011, Kelci Stringer settled her final lawsuit against parties found culpable of her husband’s death, including the NFL and helmet maker Riddell. That same summer at least seven high-school football players and one coach collapsed and died from July 22nd to September 1st.  Lawsuits followed, targeting schools and personnel for wrongful death of football heatstroke—a decade after Korey Stringer in the NFL. Sources: St. Paul Pioneer Press, New York Post, Associated Press, CNN, CBS News, ESPN.Go.com., Carlisle Sentinel, Reading Eagle, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, WSVN-TV, Miami Herald, Florence Morning News, Rivals.Yahoo.com, KDAF-TV, WTEV-TV, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, WSB-TV, WXIA-TV, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, KLRT-TV, KRIV-TV, ABC News and Dallas Morning News.

2005: Thomas Herrion, 23, a 6-3, 315-pound offensive lineman for the San Francisco 49ers, collapsed and died on Aug. 20 following a night exhibition game amid cool weather at Denver. An autopsy determined ischemic heart disease caused the death, blockage of a coronary artery. Greg Aiello, NFL spokesman, said Herrion “may be a case of an unfortunate hereditary condition that is not easily detected, even by the regular and thorough cardiac screening used by NFL clubs.” Herrion was clinically obese by criteria of the Body Mass Index, like a horde of NFL athletes, and controversy flared again over his death. So league officials changed their story regarding the plethora of 300-pound players, upwards of 500 behemoths in training camps every year, compared to less than 10 on record prior to 1970.  Earlier in 2005, year of PED hearings in Washington, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue and cohorts told Congress the herd of mammoths wasn’t because of widespread doping, drugs like anabolic steroids and synthetic growth hormone, but for a modern wave of “fat” athletes. They told politicians like senators John McCain and Henry Waxman that drug abuse producing artificial specimens in the NFL was an epidemic of the past resolved by “steroid testing.” Pot-bellied players had taken over, said league and union officials. But their excuse flip-flopped months later, when media criticized obesity in the league that impacted health of Herrion, as chronicled in my book, Spiral of Denial: Muscle Doping in American Football: “Now officials contended the NFL primarily featured muscled specimens with low body fat, so the league could argue BMI standards were an invalid application for its athletes. League medical liaison Dr. Elliot Pellman said the question of obesity among players still had to be answered by research. The league was commissioning its own studies. ‘There’s a 1-in-200,000 chance that an individual the age of Mr. Herrion will suffer a sudden death,’ Pellman said. ‘It happens, and no one knows why it happens.’ Pellman said obesity was a cultural problem, not football’s. Officials dismissed a study, based on the BMI, that concluded virtually all NFL players were overweight or obese. Bears nutritionist Julie Burns said NFL players were abnormally muscular humans. Taglibue said, ‘We have athletes that are fitter than most people in society, bigger than most people in society, and doing things that are different and more demanding than many people in society.’ PEDs, meanwhile, did not apply. ‘Huh?’ remarked Sam Donnellon, the Philadelphia Daily News, on mixed messages from the league.” Additional sources: Contra Costa Times, Associated Press, NBC News and CBS News.

2007: Damien Nash, 24, a 5-10, 220-pound running back for the Denver Broncos, knew well about cardiac disease. Nash’s close older brother, Darris, 25, had a heart transplant for dilated cardiomyopathy, discovered for his cardiac episode while playing basketball. So Damien, training during the offseason at home in St. Louis, hosted a local fundraiser for the Darris Nash Find A Heart Foundation. Damien played a portion of the charity basketball game featuring his NFL and college friends then greeted people in the crowd. Festivities moved to Nash’s home in Ferguson, Mo., but he suddenly collapsed. Damien Nash was pronounced dead at a hospital, and initial autopsy results were inconclusive. Family members suspected a cardiac problem, but cardiomyopathy like his brother’s normally wasn’t genetic, said doctors. Such damage likely would have emerged already in Damien, for his life and job in elite athletics. And he passed several heart screens by NFL teams that his agent trusted as thorough. Damien did not drink nor use drugs, said family members, and toxicology results came back negative. Cause of death remained “undetermined” in the final report, issued by the St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s Office. “It was a natural death of cardiac origin,” said a spokesman, “but we were unable to determine an exact origin.” Nash and his wife, Judy, had a 7-month-old daughter at time of his death. Sources: Associated Press, Denver Post and NPR.org.

*The death of Damien Nash was either missed or deemed unrelated to football by game-funded academics. His case is not included in 2007 football fatality data posted without scientific vetting on a website from UNC-Chapel Hill.

2010: Gaines Adams, 26, a 6-5, 258-pound defensive end for the Chicago Bears, was an athletic specimen who had been drafted No.1, fourth overall in his college class, by Tampa Bay. Traded to Chicago midway through the 2009 season with 13.5 career sacks, Adams wore the label of “bust” but kept potential intact, like a 4.55-second speed in the 40, with no serious injuries or apparent heath issues. But weeks following season’s end, on Sunday morning, Jan. 17, 2010, Adams collapsed at home in Greenwood, S.C., and was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Autopsy found that cardiac arrest of an enlarged heart killed the athlete, who had no such family history. Relatives and friends were shocked. “I am honored to have been able to know [Gaines Adams] and to have been his teammate,” said Bucs center Jeff Faine. “A truly bright soul.” Sources: Sarasota Herald Tribune, St. Petersburg Times, Associated Press and ESPN.com.

*The death of Gaines Adams was either missed or deemed unrelated to football by game-funded academics. His case is not included in 2010 football fatality data posted without scientific vetting on a website from UNC-Chapel Hill.


Football’s on-field tragedies of Howard Glenn, in 1960 at Houston, and Chuck Hughes, 1971 at Detroit, framed the period’s dangerously inferior medical planning and response for players of all ages.

During the Vietnam War era, America’s sparse emergency-care system led to more football deaths than any other factor, according to my review of severe casualties appearing in news. I’ve collected thousands of fatality and survivor cases, including about 350 player deaths from the 1960s and about 275 from the 1970s.

The subsequent reduction of football fatalities isn’t measurable in close terms, much less absolute numbers, say independent experts. Undoubtedly, however, the trend is due primarily to society’s widespread establishment of EMT crews, modular ambulances, life flights, emergency rooms and trauma surgery.

Within the game, the NFL has improved its own medical management—but not to the point of effecting “safer football” like officials claim today.

“Anyone with two eyes on a Sunday afternoon [in season] can see that’s not so,” said Irv Muchnick, the investigative journalist and independent blogger with cunning for exposing dark underbellies of sport-entertainment conglomerates.

Muchnick thoroughly dissects football ugliness, amid contemporary crisis for the game over brain injuries. He focuses on ill-resourced outback levels below the NFL, particularly the public schools and municipal “youth” leagues with millions of juveniles colliding in helmets and pads. Many American kids play tackle football on public property before they enter first grade, while they cannot legally drive a car until age 16 nor buy cigarettes until an adult.

Change looms, as Irv Muchnick chronicles in his new book, Concussion Inc.: The End of Football As We Know It, published by ECW Press of Canada. In an email Q&A for ChaneysBlog, Muchnick addresses football problems and more, notably his current co-investigation, with independent journalist Tim Joyce, of sexual assault in U.S. Swimming:

Q1. Discuss your new book, the circumstances drawing you into the football issues by 2010.

Basically, it went like this: In late 2009 my book on the Chris Benoit murder-suicide came out. The book immediately got inserted into the 2010 U.S. Senate race in Connecticut between Democrat Richard Blumental and Republican Linda McMahon. Blumenthal is a liar who claimed military service “in Vietnam,” when in fact he had a cushy stateside Reserves stint during Vietnam. McMahon is the wife of Vince McMahon and the former CEO of WWE. She poured $50 million of their wealth from this publicly traded company into the failed race against Blumental, and $50 million more into another failed Senate race two years later, against Chris Murphy. Such sterling choices in our democracy!

Alerted by the fine early work on football by Alan Schwarz in The New York Times, and aware that I had a unique perspective on and reportorial resources for the concussion crisis story, I waded in, and by late 2010 I had “rebranded” my blog, naming it Concussion Inc. I answered only to a crazy boss: me.

Benoit had been the first CTE study announced in 2007 by Chris Nowinski’s Sports Legacy Institute and Center for the Study of CTE in Boston. (The Benoit study was done by Bennet Omalu — now coming to the silver screen, but back then being written out of the story not just by the NFL but also by Schwarz, Nowinski, and Cantu, the Northeast Gold Dust Trio.) Chris Benoit’s father and now my good friend, Mike Benoit, had insisted throughout my research for Chris & Nancy that I was underplaying brain disease and overplaying drugs and other generic explanations for his family’s tragedy, and I came to see how right he was.

From there, all the connections flowed—principally Dr. Joe Maroon of UPMC … and WWE, and the NFL, and anti-aging huckerism, and the goofy hype for resveratrol supplements, and his proximity (at minimum) to the steroid/HGH abuse on the multiple-champion Steelers.

There was no major publisher market for the book I was writing, so like the late Red Smith, I undertook my “daily spelling lesson” at what I jokingly call ConcussionInc.net LLP. The topics and the obsessions were spontaneous responses to the news of 2010-11-12. My main narrative interest was in exposing the interlocking ecosystem of problems and commercial “solutions.” I hope that readers come away convinced that safe tackling, better helmets, better mousetraps are the filtered cigarettes of the 21st century. I credit a little-known fellow native Missouri writer by the name of Chaney with a game-changing insight on how state “concussion awareness” laws are not just bullshit, but jiu-jitsu bullshit— magically creating new private profit centers from the public trough, principally our public high schools.

Along the way, I jousted a couple of times with Bob Costas, an acquaintance-friend from the St. Louis sports mafia. The book collects and reorganizes all this material the way books are supposed to do: to put the author over.

In all seriousness, there’s some stuff there that I’m very proud of. No other journalist has gone deep with the story of Dave Duerson’s role on NFL-NFLPA disability benefits board. No one else has called out the Congress of Neurological Surgeons for giving Roger Goodell a standing ovation before his lame speech at their convention. No one else documented how the Centers for Disease Control accepted unprecedented private funding from the NFL for the federal government’s “concussion education campaign,” or how the National Institutes of Health helped Maroon and his cronies develop their phony, for-profit ImPACT program to the tune of millions in research subsidies.

Q2. What is “public football”?

There is an answer, perhaps not as flip as it sounds, that all of football is truly “public” football—up through and including the NFL, a phony nonprofit that gets municipal subsidies for stadiums (plus other things). Since this situation will probably get worse before it gets better, as the industry has both the federal National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control in its pocket, I expect that within a few years the Super Bowl will be coordinated with the Presidents’ Weekend national holiday: the regular season and playoff schedule will have expanded yet again, so that fans don’t have to go to work the Monday after the game.

The thrust of what we mean by public football, however, is taxpayer-funded programs at the professional sport’s feeder levels. I say go ahead and allow all the fools who want their sons to play club and private school football. But let’s get our public school systems out of it. “Death of football” ideology is wishful thinking, but with new levels of “awareness” of traumatic brain injury—and with the failed prevention costs and litigation flowing from that awareness—the goal of stamping out public football in this targeted way is achievable.

Q3. Furthering this point, you’ve been characterized as bent on banning football. But isn’t that a simplistic view of, or strategic response to, your argument in the debate?

I’m not out to ban football. Prohibition of just about anything is too blunt an instrument. It’s not fair to the zealous and it doesn’t work.

But adult statecraft involves more than simply rambling about personal choice. I find it amusing that many of those who accuse people with my viewpoint of “having an agenda” are blind to their own as they grasp at commercial rearguard initiatives, such as helmet technology, more “professional” coaching of kids, or tail-chasing Zackery Lystedt state laws. We don’t ban boxing, but it has a somewhat saner footprint on our culture than it used to have. We don’t ban tobacco, but cigarette marketing is curtailed and kids are protected.

Last rejoinder to this straw-man argument: I refuse to play the game of having to prove my bona fides before I can join the football debate. Put your guns down and let’s talk about football as an activity, not as a religion. I’m not an expert—thank God. But it’s better to have common sense than no sense at all.

Q4. Compare the “blogosphere” with traditional daily news media, when it comes to reporting and analyzing public issues in sport.

Let’s stipulate that new media and mainstream media types are simply blaring their bugles from different formations of the same march against human folly. I know that, minus the filter of an editor, I’ve shown my own ass plenty of times. It doesn’t matter if the public learns the truth about football from me or The New York Times or Professor Hieronymus Buttocks. And if Schwarz hadn’t started doing what he was doing in 2007, you and I are not even having this conversation today.

But did Schwarz and The Times take anything close to the number of shots downfield they should have? Give me a break. When Schwarz wrote about his buddy Chris Nowinski getting a $1 million NFL grant, the story all but giggled like a schoolgirl. After Bennet Omalu fell out with Bob Cantu, Schwarz basically blacked the former out of coverage, while quoting the latter in the venture-capital hype for Xenith, a space-age helmet company. In his account of the fed investigation of Riddell’s promotional claims, Schwarz treated the lying Joe Maroon with kid gloves. Schwarz’s takeout disclaimer on the death of the Cincinnati Bengals’ Chris Henry was cringeworthy; The Times quoted NFL’s latest consulting face, Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, to the effect that sometimes bad behavior is just bad behavior, and Schwarz reminded readers that nice white quarterbacks, like Steve Young and Troy Aikman, who also had sustained concussions, were not “on C block.”

Eventually Schwarz became associate producer of a documentary funded by the billionaire developer of the King-Devick Concussion Test.

I don’t want anyone to think I’m picking on Schwarz. Jim Litke, the national sports columnist for the Associated Press, has done some great stuff on how Roger Goodell co-opted Mommy sports bloggers with cornball clinics on “safe tackling.” But AP analysis of how state Lystedt Laws “lack bite”—thank you very much—are just playing “gotcha.” Nowhere do I see a single passage about how these laws were designed, in the first place, to offload football industry liability onto the public sector.

In an age of rampant advertorial, you’re daft if you don’t acknowledge that bloggers, social media, what have you, can be a useful check and balance.

Q5. Discuss your co-investigative series with Tim Joyce on sexual predator coaches and athletes in U.S. Swimming.

Swimming is the right next book in several respects. Because it’s a niche sport, Tim and I have more of the field to ourselves (though outlets like ESPN, of course, which for the most part ignore the story, do manage to “big foot” us from time to time).

Just as a large segment of our boy population is getting systematically brained in football, disturbing numbers of girls are getting raped at all rungs of our Olympic sports system. As with concussions, we are less interested in being designated cops than in following the money. The profiteers of so-called amateur sports and the nonprofits of “Child Abuse Inc.” play defense much faster than the public realizes or perhaps cares.

But to get down to business: 400,000 kids, 12,000 coaches — you don’t need an advanced degree in statistical analysis in order to extrapolate from the scores of known and under-reported cases; to factor in the forms of denial and cover-up; and to conclude that this is, bar none, the largest-scale molestation narrative outside the Catholic Church. It makes Penn State look like a garden party by comparison.

The hardest part to explain is that every institution has its own sick dynamic. In swimming, it’s not willy-nilly opportunistic pedophiles. Rather, there is a unique power imbalance. Most often it’s a 30-something male coach and an early or mid-teens star girl swimmer, who is emerging from the physical and emotional changes of puberty, and is desperate for adult approval, college scholarship, Olympic glory. Parents are asleep at the switch; they are totally invested until something bad happens to their own kid.

The rippling societal costs, in terms of life-long cases of eating disorders, substance abuse, and broken relationships and families, are incalculable. Yet all we see above ground is NBC’s feel-good patriotic package for a fortnight every leap year summer.

With the Rio Games upcoming, Tim and I are going deep with the story of Brazilian national Alex Pussieldi, who is the Rowdy Gaines of swimming coverage on the country’s SporTV network. Two years ago Pussieldi fled South Florida, where he had gotten his start in American coaching under the recently deceased Hall of Famer Jack Nelson, whom Diana Nyad credibly accuses of molesting her for years at the Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale. In the course of reviewing thousands upon thousands of pages of discovery documents USA Swimming tried to suppress, Tim and I told the full story of the cover-up by that organization as well as local police, city government, and the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, of Pussieldi’s 2004 physical assault and Peeping Tom practices against a Mexican boy who was swimming and being boarded by him. Pussieldi was a major creep and international human trafficker, and his rise to prominence was aided by former USA Swimming president and conflicts-crazed consultant Dale Neuburger, who steers contracts with foreign national teams to coaches like Michael Phelps’ guy, Bob Bowman. Neuburger also was an architect of swimming’s scam offshore insurance subsidiary, the “United States Sports Insurance Co.” in Barbados. ESPN’s Outside the Lines still won’t tell its viewers, but all this is under investigation by the FBI and the Government Accountability Office.

Q6. The U.S. Swimming scandal is monumental with much yet to uncover and untold victims in need of light. So it doesn’t sound like you’re returning to football analysis anytime soon, not in your former diligence that produced the new book.

That is correct. The football follies are now out there for all to see and interpret. Geez, our friend Bennet Omalu is about to be portrayed by Will Smith. I’ll continue to comment on a connection or two as we move along–and of course I reserve the right to change my mind–but the focus of my energy is swimming and Rio ’16.

Q7. For what may be called the “genuine iconoclast” writer in sports issues, it appears there’s often little competition on reporting a problem, however terrible, because few media are willing to probe and pay the price to do so. Correct?

Yeah, no doubt I’m a little bit nuts, and I don’t have the excuse of having played football. Maybe I should have gone straight and gotten a real job, but it’s way too late for that. My name is on a Supreme Court case involving writers’ rights in new media, and Concussion Inc. is my third book, and I’m proud of those things. They’re not rewarding financially, but they’re rewarding.

Matt Chaney is a writer, editor, teacher and restaurant cook in Missouri, USA. Chaney’s 2001 MA thesis at the University of Central Missouri involved electronic search for thousands of news reports on performance-enhancing drugs in American football, a project inspired by his experience of injecting testosterone as a college player in 1982 (Southeast Missouri State). Email him at mattchaney@fourwallspublishing.com. For more information, including about Chaney’s 2009 book Spiral of Denial: Muscle Doping in American Football, visit the homepage at www.fourwallspublishing.com.

Football Officials Alerted to Brain Damage, Concussion—80 Years Ago

Contemporary experts of law and medicine in sport discuss an historical news period, 1928 to 1933, when football officials learned of brain risk to players, understood research questions—and even devised a sideline concussion test

By Matt Chaney

Posted Saturday, January 31, 2015

Copyright ©2015 by Matthew L. Chaney

During football season in 1928, late October, American sports pages headlined ominous findings of fledgling research on brain damage in boxers:

“’Punch Drunk’ May Apply in Other Sports”

“American Medical Association Publishes Article Raising Question”

The accompanying news report quoted Dr. Harrison S. Martland, of Orange, N.J., whose newly published case studies of deceased boxers revealed a “punch drunk” syndrome to become known as “chronic traumatic brain injury.”

Utilizing microscopic pathology, Martland had identified diseased brain cells of boxers “due to single or repeated blows on the head or jaw,” he said, warning that likely all athletes of contact sport were at risk.

Research avenues were obvious and urgent for football leaders and officials of more activities in America.

“The condition can no longer be ignored by the medical profession or the public,” Martland said, long ago—and wowing experts today.

“Dr. Martland’s observation was spot-on,” said Bob Fitzsimmons, legendary sports attorney, during an email exchange this week. “Unfortunately it took over 80 years to follow his advice, even though the problem was right before us all the time.”

“If only the stakeholders in football would have heeded Dr. Martland’s warnings in 1928…,” said Paul D. Anderson, sports-injury lawyer and professor, “the science of football-related brain injuries would have been exponentially advanced and numerous lives could have been protected.”

“Instead, the stakeholders and guardians of football were willfully blind.”

Here is full text of the 1928 Associated Press report published in Sports sections nationwide:

NEW YORK, Oct. 20 (AP)–The “punch drunk” condition of boxers has stepped into the medical field for determination whether others than boxers get it.

The American Medical Association has issued in its Journal an appeal by Harrison S. Martland, M.D., of Newark, N.J., to find out the nature and extent of this state, which he says fight fans describe as “punch drunk, cuckoo, goofy, cutting paper dolls or slug nutty.”

The symptoms in slight cases are a “very slight flopping of one foot or leg in walking, noticeable only at intervals, or a slight unsteadiness in gain or uncertainty in equilibrium.” In severe cases “there may develop a peculiar tilting of the head, a marked dragging of one or both legs, a staggering, propulsive gait.” Finally, marked mental deterioration may set in.

“I am of the opinion that in punch drunk there is a very definite brain injury, due to single or repeated blows on the head or jaw. I realize that this theory, while alluring, is quite insusceptible of proof at the present time.”

Dr. Martland suggests that if punch drunk exists in the form he suspects [then] it afflicts others than boxers and that establishment of the facts is important to courts and labor compensation boards in handling head injury cases. He foresees disadvantages in the field which may be opened for “so-called expert testimony” and says:

“While most of the evidence supporting the existence of this condition is based at this time on the observations of fight fans, promoters and sporting writers, the fact that nearly one-half of the fighters who have stayed in the game long enough develop this condition, either in a mild form or a severe and progressive form, which often necessitates commitment to an asylum, warrants this report. The condition can no longer be ignored by the medical profession or the public.”

The Martland story is a “great” artifact, said Fitzsimmons, who represented family members of Mike Webster, the deceased, brain-damaged NFL lineman at center of landmark court action a decade ago. The Webster estate won $2 million in retroactive disability payments from the league and players union, setting legal precedent for claimants of brain injury from football.

Harrison S. Martland paved the evidential path. The pioneer sport neuro-pathologist, longtime medical examiner of Essex County, N.J., was also known for identifying disease states in workers of radium processing. Martland compiled boxing case studies until his death in 1954, and authorities of football like Fitzsimmons feel indebted.

“Much still needs to be done but I am encouraged by the numerous doctors and scientists who are now studying and researching CTE,” Fitzsimmons said. “Advances are being made and hopefully treatment is not far off.”

Two modern pathologists are prominent for their postmortem series on football players, beginning with former Pittsburgh ME Dr. Bennet Omalu, a friend and colleague of Fitzsimmons who’s now a county medical examiner in California and subject of a feature film in production.

Following Webster’s death at age 50 in 2002, Omalu delivered the groundbreaking micro-autopsies identifying chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, in brain tissue of the Steelers icon and more deceased NFL players.

At Boston University, Dr. Ann McKee has found brain disease in 78 of 82 NFL players analyzed postmortem, damage of impacts including hallmark tauopathy. “We have known about CTE since the 1920s, when it was first associated with boxing,” McKee said, speaking recently in Texas.

“CTE results in memory loss, mood swings, change of behavior, and sometimes suicide.”

Dr. Lester Mayers, a New York physiatrist and author of journal reviews, is versed in the literature lineage of brain trauma in athletes dating to boxing’s earliest. “Dr. Martland cautiously pointed out that evidence of [the boxing] affliction was anecdotal at that time,” Mayers stated this week in email.

“Since then, many studies of professional and amateur boxers utilizing a variety of [research] techniques have found that greater than 50 percent suffer substantial brain damage and disability. The significance of these findings is that the extent of brain damage correlated best with the number of non-concussive impacts experienced by the fighters over their careers.”

“There seems to be an obvious parallel with the current experience unfolding in football.”

Mayers knows the football maw close range, as former medical director for athletics at Pace University, where he treated casualties of all games. Mayers doesn’t see much if any wiggle room for football and its inherent violence, regarding improvement for so-called safety.

“Anyone who watches football games at any level from the sidelines, junior through professional, will observe the constant occurrence of head impacts intrinsic to the game—500 to 1,000 per season according to Helmet Impact Technology,” Mayers observed.

“I believe that when the extent of resulting brain injury and disability is better documented in future studies that football participation will decline substantially, placing the future of the game at risk.”

Some researchers, typically funded by football interests, say more studies are needed to draw conclusions about collision risk for the brain. They note longitudinal studies have yet to be performed on living players—without adding that football organizers have avoided exactly that research since Martland’s call 87 years ago.

Central New York clinical psychologist Dr. Don Brady, PhD, PsyD, NCSP, researches sport concussion and provides consultation for NFL retirees, their families, and other athletes. Brady has studied the literature of sport-related concussion for three decades, devouring Martland but taking his review deeper, back to 19th century research. Dr. Brady rebukes the notion that accumulating discovery isn’t documenting football danger.

Information such as the 1928 Martland news “serves to further thwart attempts by concussion revisionists and manufacturers of doubt to ignore, deny, minimize and sanitize the existence of adverse medical history accounts…,” Brady stated in email, “that pertain to brain injury or concussion in sports and other life aspects.”

“Concussion history literature of the 1800s and early 1900s is rich with documentation on the adverse effects of both sport and non-sport-related concussion.”

Attorney Paul Anderson concurred, discussing historical information in context of present-day lawsuits by thousands of former NFL players and families.

“Dr. Martland’s [1928] statement is another bullet in the plaintiffs’ chamber when they seek to prove the NFL knew or should have known about the long-term, devastating effects of repeated blows to the head,” Anderson, representing family of late college player Derek Sheely in an NCAA lawsuit, wrote for ChaneysBlog.

For more regarding what football organizers have known about brain trauma, and when, see below the annotated timeline of news articles from 1982 to 2001, first posted at ChaneysBlog in 2012.


Public fallout for Dr. Martland in 1928 emanated primarily from boxing circles.  “His brains are scrambled from taking them on the chin,” cracked a dim pugilist, unwittingly affirming Martland theory [and, no, the doctor wasn’t a boxer].

Martland won more support than opposition for his conclusions about chronic TBI in boxers. A powerful opinion leader in Martland’s camp was Dr. Morris Fishbein, widely known official of the AMA, for his four decades in spotlight as editor of Journal of the American Medical Association.

Fishbein endorsed the boxing research in this installment of his syndicated newspaper column, “Daily Health Talk”:

Punches in Prize Ring Often Injure Brain

By Dr. Morris Fishbein

Pugilists know the condition that results from a terrific pounding in the prize ring in which the recipient of the mauling suddenly finds himself unable to move his legs, dizzy, or as it is commonly expressed, “out on his feet.”

Dr. Harrison S. Martland recently read before the Pathologic society of New York a discussion of the condition called “punch drunk,” which the fighters themselves all characterize by the terms “cuckoo,” “goofy,” “cutting paper dolls,” or “slug nutty.”

He points out that the condition usually affects fighters of the slugging type who are usually poor boxers and who take considerable head punishment, seeking only to return a knockout blow.

It usually takes the fighter one or two hours to recover from a severe blow on the head or jaw. If he has been “punch drunk,” he may notice later a flopping of one foot or leg in walking, and sometimes mental confusion lasting several days.

Dr. Martland is convinced that the condition called “punch drunk” results from a definite brain injury due to a single or repeated blows on the head or jaw which cause multiple small hemorrhages in the deeper parts of the brain.

In the late stages, therefore, the disease resembles the condition known as shaking palsy or Parkinson’s disease.

He has presented microscopic studies of the brains of persons who have developed this condition, showing the pathologic changes which occurred in the brain, and which substantiate his point of view.

Furthermore, he presents the names of 23 fighters who have been “punch drunk,” and their present condition indicates the permanence of the physical changes.

The AMA and JAMA already stood opposed to boxing at outset of the Depression Era, and membership immediately adopted Martland studies for accruing argument.

AMA ethical policy then and now essentially outlines Hippocratic creed of Do no harm, or When in doubt, protect the patient. To recommend avoidance of pugilism, especially for children, amounted to simple rationale for America’s leading medical body.

But AMA and JAMA simultaneously supported dangerous football, curiously or hypocritically [see news timeline below for the dichotomy in recent decades].

Fishbein himself publicized perhaps the first sideline concussion test, apparently referencing a 1933 NCAA publication detailing the protocol, Medical Handbook for Schools and Colleges: Prevention and Care of Athletic Injuries.

Fishbein addressed traumatic brain injury in football and symptoms to watch for, reporting the following in newspapers:

Most serious of all [football] injuries are those affecting the brain and the skull. A concussion of the brain means that the brain tissue actually has been bruised, with possible small hemorrhages in the tissue.

The first sign of such injury is loss of memory for recent events. The least important sign is a slight dizziness. But coaches and trainers should not, however, be unimpressed when a player comes out of a sudden impact with another player merely slightly dizzy or dazed.

The first thing to do in any such accident is to put the player immediately at rest, to determine extent of the injury. When a player has had a head injury, he should be put into a reclining position, questioned as to the headache and dizziness and given the test as to his memory for recent events.

If he cannot remember the names of his opponents, which side is on the offensive, the score, the day of the week, or similar matters, it is not safe to permit him to play again. If, however, he merely is dizzy, he should be permitted to stand and move about, to determine whether he has lost his sense of balance.

Any sign of a loss of sense of balance is serious, and the player should be removed from the contest.

Fishbein was channeling the NCAA publication, undoubtedly.

Kansas City attorney Paul D. Anderson has studied the 1933 NCAA document. And he keeps seeing perfect fits of additional information, then and now, like the historic news items about Martland, the AMA, and brutal sports.

“The doctors [from 1928 to 1933] clearly identify a causal link between football-related head blows and punch-drunk syndrome,” Anderson surmised.


A 2007 episode of Friday Night Lights on NBC centered on a lawsuit against a high-school football coach, for failure to instill “proper tackling” in a player who ended up paralyzed by a helmet hit. This TV show was based on fact, not fiction.

Heads Up, football coaches and wives, because you’re legally liable for the theory of “head up” or headless hitting by players, the alleged “technique” and accompanying rules proven inapplicable and unenforceable since at least 1976.

Yes, coaches are legally responsible for ensuring that headless hitting is applied in tackle football, which is, lest anyone forgets, a forward-colliding frenzy that pits large, helmeted combatants to ram each other. No one can actually teach and instill Heads Up nonsense, of course, revived by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and league offspring USA Football.

Nevertheless, coaches of all levels are integral to the show of “proper technique.” The vast majority serve public lip service, promoting Heads Up for every gullible news reporter, of the legion.

Meanwhile, the unfortunate few coaches—and their families—become legal shields for King Football, as targets for lawsuits. Individual  homeowner’s insurance becomes exposed for paying potential settlement or damage award, among liabilities.

Since 1971, coaches, colleges, schools, youth leagues, local government and helmet makers have been sued over “head up” or “proper contact”—and with no backing of the prime purveyors like Goodell, who quickly acknowledge lacking scientific proof for Heads Up when pressed.

Lawsuit plaintiffs—from whom Goodell effectively insulates—are player casualties of football’s predictable severe injuries, calamities occurring much more frequently than reported by game-funded “studies” posted on a website from University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

Contemporary plaintiffs include a former NAIA college player, Nathaniel Seth Irvin, whose lawsuit alleges he suffers concussion damage “as a result of bad coaching and improper helmet use” during the 1980s, reports The Chicago Tribune.

In California, the mother of a quadriplegic former Pop Warner player is suing coaches, their wives, and youth-league organizations. Crystal Dixon alleges in the court complaint that her son, Donnovan Hill, was paralyzed in Pop Warner football for “a negligent tackling technique he was taught and instructed to use by his coaches.” Hill was 13 when paralyzed during a game in 2011.

Defense attorneys replied: “To encourage aggressive play in football is simply to encourage participants to play the game as it should be played.”

Such lawsuits could also target football players and referees.

I played and coached in college football 30 years ago, when the so-called anti-butting rule of the NCAA and national high schools—supposedly banning the striking of a helmet facemask for initial contact—was already a joke.

And we coaches at Southeast Missouri State didn’t have to specifically instruct players to ram. We only lined them up to play the dumb game, which inherently dictates head-on collision between opposing players, clashing from opposite directions. This is a very simple matter of modern football covering law–ramming–because of natural physics and shatterproof head armor.

The idea of chest-bumping and “shoulder leverage” in football with modern helmets isn’t only impossible. It is quackery for the public presentation today. And every football official above low-informed knows it, especially coaches who played.

Yet cultural authorities like the American Medical Association have espoused “head up” versions first devised by a coaches association in 1961, then pumped by AMA press releases in 1967—despite medical literature’s lacking a peer-reviewed article on the concept, still, much less one credible researcher to sign his or her name.

No Heads Up theorist claims responsibility yet, not academically, scientifically or legally.

That should say everything for anyone.


This year’s Super Bowl City serves as ‘Cautionary Tale’ for subsidizing sports and more questionable entertainment ventures.

Read past the hype or rhetoric about being an “NFL City,” and Glendale, Ariz., is almost bankrupt for building stadiums and hosting events like the Super Bowl. And monetary shocks spread further, affecting greater Phoenix and taxpayers across the state.

“To fiscal conservatives, Glendale serves as a cautionary tale for suburban cities across the United States that want to throw public money at professional sports projects,” note Associated Press writers Josh Hoffner and Jaques Billeaud, for this week’s must-read analysis.

“Overall, it’s a bad move for cities,” said Kurt Altman, attorney for the Goldwater Institute. “As much as they say it’s going to make the city a destination, it just doesn’t.”

A mathematical reality confronts any region for public giveaways to the NFL and other sports like the NHL (the garage league utterly underwritten by American taxpayers):

There can be no public payoff unless a sport franchise imports new consumers and industry from out of state. But that never happens.

The glittering civic toys of subsidized stadiums and entertainment districts merely steal in-state customers from local businesses, those paying full taxation and operating without government aid.

Even a region’s temporary injection of Super Bowl fans, corporate sponsors and major media produces negligible return for public coffers—or just more red ink.

In Glendale, the tax-paying citizenry will lose millions this week over the Super Bowl, says Jerry Weiers, the mayor tasked with sorting out a sports mess left by predecessors in city government.

The municipality is dropping “huge amounts of money on overtime and police and public safety costs associated with hosting the Super Bowl but getting very little in return,” report Hoffner and Billeaud.

Elsewhere, Missouri, does Gov. Jay Nixon get it about public subsidy for the NFL?

Jay Nixon proposes dropping a half-billion dollars in state resources on yet another football stadium in St. Louis—only 20 years after taxpayers opened a new dome for the Rams, a project still carrying millions in debt.

Does the Missouri governor need help, or logic, to ascertain necessary and priority need for appropriating public assets?

Supplement: News Timeline on Brain Trauma in Boxing, The NFL and NCAA

Articles from 1982 to 2001

By Matt Chaney, 2012

1982, Dec. 4:  “Dangerous Games That People Play,” by Ira Berkow, New York Times. News commentary discusses risk and injury of hazardous sports and activities in the United States, citing a report of the American Medical Association [AMA]. Berkow notes, with boxing under renewed threat of elimination in America, that brain injuries are well-known in football too, comparing the gridiron’s “almost casual list of the maimed… those [players] suffering the routine concussions, neck injuries and assorted broken segments of the anatomy.” Berkow writes: “There are more deaths occurring in college football and in motorcycle racing and in sky-sailing than in boxing. Relatively few [authorities], it seems, have vigorously propounded abolishing any other sport besides boxing since 1905…”

1983, Jan. 14:  “Physicians’ Journal Calls For a Ban on Boxing,” by John Noble Wilford, New York Times. News analysis discusses JAMA editorials urging ban of boxing in America, CAT-scan studies of living boxers revealing “brain damage,” and response of boxing officials, including their proposals to reduce risks. “Editorials in today’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association urged the banning of boxing in light of new evidence suggesting that chronic brain damage was prevalent among fighters,” Wilford writes. In Britain, a study of living boxers, professional and amateur, determines chronic brain damage is “most predictable” for a career in the ring.

1983, Feb. 15:  “The Ring Commission Hearings,” by Jim Lehrer, Monica Hoose, and Peggy Robinson. MacNeil/Lehrer Report [transcript]. PBS Television show addresses congressional hearings on boxing in Washington, with replays of day’s lawmaker questions and witness testimonies on Capitol Hill. Discussion includes boxing deaths and more notorious beatings of the 1970s-80s, arguments on potential ban or government regulation of a continued sport, so-called safer boxing conducted as “a science,” and an AMA doctor’s pointing to tackle football in America for producing severe head injuries as well. “I think a similar kind of injury occurs in any contact sport,” says Dr. Russell H. Patterson, Jr., neurosurgeon and AMA official. “Football is a good example, and we’ve seen some serious head in juries in football. … The blow is the same whether it’s in boxing or in football. It’s just in boxing it’s small, repetitive blows but maybe spread over many years and almost daily in its occurrence.” Robert Lee, U.S. Boxing Commission president, says, “The past year, 1982, has been filled with controversy with all too many people calling for a ban on boxing. Yet how many of these same people call for a ban on high-injury sports such as skiing, football, hang-gliding, auto racing, scuba diving or mountain climbing?”

1983, June 12:  “Boxing and The Brain,” by David Noonan, New York Times. News analysis discusses the following: boxing hearings and debate; medical literature since 1928 and physiology of brain injury; child fighters such as a 13-year-old who died of brain injury; concepts of safer boxing like “body punching”; noticeable speech difficulties of boxing great Muhammad Ali, age 41; and Dr. Ira R. Casson, a Long Island neurologist conducting a study series on boxers who would later work for the NFL. The known permanent brain damage of boxing includes “a clinically diagnosed condition called dementia pugilistica, also knows as chronic encephalopathy of boxers and best known as punch-drunk syndrome,” Noonan writes. “As the information about chronic encephalopathy in boxers has accumulated over the years, several distinct clinical symptoms and their apparent pathological causes have been identified.” Casson—who someday would lead NFL studies on brain injury—views radiological imaging of Ali’s brain, for Sports Illustrated, and says, “That’s the kind of CAT scan that I’ve seen in a number of former and long-term boxers.”

1983, June 20:  “Doctors Debate What To Do About ‘The Sweet Science,’ ” by Brenda C. Coleman, The Associated Press. News report discusses AMA proposal to eliminate publicly funded boxing, convention debate over the proposal, a new study that finds repeated blows causes brain damage in boxers, and similar research on college football players. “Any sport whose objective is to injure another human being is an abomination,” says internist Dr. William F. Dowda. “There’s absolutely no moral justification for a sport that condones a brain concussion.” Differing viewpoints were heard on convention floor, including from Dr. Russell H. Patterson, Jr., AMA official and chairman of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons [AAN], who says research shows brain damage is “not a problem” among amateur boxers. “Patterson also pointed to a study of 11 Eastern colleges that showed the incidence of accumulated head injury in football was at least as high as in boxing,” Coleman reports.

1983, June 23:  “AMA Delegates: Ban Amateur Boxing,” no byline, Washington Post. News report discusses debate over the formal AMA call to eliminate boxing in municipal leagues, schools, colleges and more government entities such as the military, along with establishing federal regulation of professional boxing. “The AMA’s action comes at a time of increased interest in boxing regulation following the death last November of South Korean fighter Duk Koo Kim of head injuries…,” The Post reports. “I think their [AMA delegates’] position is unreasonable,” says Sig Rogich, chairman of the Nevada State Boxing Commission. “I think if they’re going to categorize risk factors in boxing as a professional sport, then they should use the same philosophy with other sports.”

1984, May 7:  “Concussion Routine in Other Sports; Boxing Safety Praised,” by James Christie, Toronto Globe and Mail. Commentary discusses the following: growing outrage over boxing, led by doctors who want downsizing or bans in America, Canada and Britain; Canadian measures for “reasonably safe” boxing, including sidelining knocked-out fighters for 30 to 60 days; and need for concussion protocol in other sports, particularly tackle football. “This is one of the biggest problems we’ve had at the university level,” says Dr. Bruce Stewart, neurologist and medical director of the Ontario Athletics Commission. “People get knocked out routinely in football, get revived and could be back in for the next series of plays. What this does is demonstrate to me that in boxing we’re being properly cautious about the welfare of our athletes.”

1986, Nov. 7:  “Johns Hopkins Begins Boxing Study,” no byline, The Associated Press. News report discusses pending research, a four-year study of amateur boxers and football players in select cities, for assessing brain damage among control groups and evaluating neuropsychological [NP] testing for possible method of early detection. “A 14-member research team will travel to three or four cities in the South, Southwest and Eastern seaboard to locate boxers, football players and youths in the same age group as the athletes who do not play contact sports and can serve as controls in the study,” The AP reports. “Col. Don Hull, the president of the USA Amateur Boxing Federation, said information gathered from the study will be important to all amateur sports.” Dr. Walter Stewart, epidemiologist at The Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, says, “We are going to collect data and let the chips fall where they may.”

1986, Nov. 10:  “The Agony Must End,” by Paul Zimmerman, Sports Illustrated. News analysis discusses NFL injuries that “continue at an unacceptable rate,” including “fractures, concussions and bruises that play havoc with America’s No. 1 sport.” While some football-funded researchers claim a safer tackle game at hand, designed to reduce head and spinal injuries in particular, the armored, high-speed violence of pro football—collisions administered and absorbed, impacts head to toe, and other physical stresses that discombobulate—is unprecedented danger for the SI writer Zimmerman, a former college player and game historian, and Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula. “Some of the collisions I’ve seen are really severe,” Shula says. “I’ve been happy for quite a while to be on the sidelines.” Zimmerman has interviewed numerous muscle dopers in the NFL and NCAA, and blames anabolic steroids and other powerful prescription drugs, like pain-killing shots and pills, for bloodshed in the modern game. “The result is higher-speed collisions by larger people, a ferocity of hitting never before seen in football or any other sport,” Zimmerman writes.

1987, Feb. 26:  “Boxing Doctor Says Peril Exaggerated; Other Sports Said Riskier as Brain Study Launched,” by Al Sokol, Toronto Star. News analysis discusses the following: boxing controversy as medical associations recommend  downsizing or banning the sport; measures for less risky or safer amateur boxing; danger of tackle football, and a Johns Hopkins longitudinal study on young boxers that includes American football players as a control group. “The stand against boxing taken by both the AMA and the Canadian Medical Association comes partly from the intuitive sense that getting hit in the head by a punch is not healthy and partly from a growing body of scientific evidence,” Sokol writes. Dr. George Ginter, a Kentucky anesthesiologist and pro boxer, says, “I totally disagree with the American Medical Association’s stand regarding the neurological damage resulting from boxing. College and pro football rank higher than boxing in terms of causing long-term disabilities.” But Boston neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Cantu supported the AMA perspective, as vocal opponent of boxing and staunch football advocate himself, promoting ideas and rhetoric of “safer” tackle football in America—and destined to someday lead an NFL-funded research team verifying brain damage in deceased football players, teens and older. Commenting on boxing in 1987, Cantu dismisses touted measures of “safer” pugilism. “A doctor at ringside is like a priest at a hanging,” Cantu says. “Neither improves the safety of the event.”

1989, March 9:  “Boxing Causing Dozens of Military Hospitalizations Yearly, Study Finds,” by Brenda C. Coleman, The Associated Press. News report discusses debate over injuries in Army boxing and research, which finds head injuries responsible for 68 percent of hospitalizations in the military sport. “Evidence that boxing produces irreversible brain damage is now as indisputable as the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer,” the researchers state. Navy boxing coach Emerson Smith disagrees, as chairman of a safety committee overseeing amateur fighting. “Since they have mandated gloves and headgear that we did research on for all boxing programs in the United States, the injury statistics are far, far less than probably all your contact sports,” Smith said. “In football, you have the kids that are paralyzed, the kids that die. I don’t believe there’s any high school or college… where you have contact sports where you’ll eliminate all serious injury.”

1989, March 10:  “Boxing Safety Studies Disagree,” by Steve Woodward, USA Today. News report discusses conflicting outcomes in studies on brain risks of young boxers, with results of research commissioned by the U.S. Amateur Boxing Federation portraying the sport in “safer terms” than the Johns Hopkins study, published by JAMA. Boxing advocates questioned the number of brain injuries cited in the JAMA article, suggesting it too high and wondering if many study subjects were unfit to box in the first place. Johns Hopkins researcher Dr. Walter Stewart responds thusly: “Clearly I would say that some people should not be boxing, just as some should not be playing football.”

1990, May 22:  “Head-High Tackles: How Long Can Footy Have Them?” no byline, London Herald. News analysis discusses Britain’s boxing controversy and increasing concern for brain injuries across contact sports, particularly rugby or Australian Rules football, where some clubs already employed “baseline” NP testing. “Boxing people, when confronted with the claim that their sport is unreasonably dangerous, inevitably point the finger straight at [rugby] football as a sport more likely to give an athlete brain damage,” The Herald states. Rugby officials rebuke the allegations, noting their safety measures and declaring relative few concussions occur. An anonymous neurosurgeon, identified as a former rugby player, says high hits were the single threat and could be outlawed by new rules. “The real problem in Australian Rules is not the normal game; it’s the excessive violence and shirtfronts. As long as everyone does things sensibly and the king-hits are kept out of football, the risks are minor.”

1991, Jan. 19:  “Jabs Cause The Brain Damage,” no byline, South Australian Advertiser. Aussie news commentary discusses the following: boxing as gladiatorial sport in western civilization, violence as public spectacle or popular culture; apparent Parkinson’s symptoms in Muhammad Ali; crystallizing medical consensus that repetitive, sub-concussive blows cause long-term cognitive impairment; and injury comparisons, boxing and other activities such as American football. “The controversy over boxing is fueled more by emotional and moral questions than by any overwhelming death toll,” the Advertiser piece opines. “Even though more than 300 professional boxers have died in the past 20 years, a recent American survey put its fatality rate at .13 boxers per 1,000 participants—compared with .3 for college football [players], 1.1 for scuba divers, 5.1 for mountaineers, 5.6 for hang gliders, 12.3 for sky divers, and 12.6 for horse racing [jockeys]. The recorded [boxing] injury rate also is low. In the United States a two-year study of 6,000 amateur boxing bouts revealed an injury rate of 1.43 percent, compared to a rate of 4.75 percent for professional boxing and 46 percent for high school football, a figure which would probably translate quite comfortably to Australian Rules or rugby in Australia.”

1992, December 7:  “Toon Out,” by Albert Kim, Sports Illustrated. News report discusses sudden retirement of NFL receiver Al Toon and his “postconcussion syndrome,” other cases of severe brain injuries in pro football, and ever-increasing awareness within the sport of potential long-term dysfunction for casualties. “Although there is no evidence to show that concussions [in football] can lead to permanent brain damage, most medical experts believes that repeated blows to the head can have dire consequences,” Kim reports. Richard Weiss, team doctor for the Buffalo Bills, says, “Think about boxing. Suffering a large number of concussions over a period of years more than likely leaves some permanent residue.” The “normally articulate and quick-witted” Toon, as Kim describes, is subdued, groggy and suffering memory loss a few weeks following his ninth diagnosed concussion in eight NFL seasons. “There are some inherent dangers in playing football…,” Toon says. “But when you get something like this [concussion syndrome], you’ve got to take it more seriously. You’ve got to think past just, Can I play on Sunday?”

1994, Jan. 28:  “Neurologist Discusses Concussions on The Gridiron,” by Noah Adams, All Things Considered[transcript]. National Public Radio show discusses growing attention to concussions football as Super Bowl nears, including public speculation of long-term brain damage to players, with interview of Dr. Peter Tsairis, team neurologist for the New York Giants. “Are there retired players who… have permanent damage because they had too many concussions?” Adam poses to Tsairis, concluding the show. “I don’t know how many of these players go on to develop dementia,” replies the Giants doctor, “which is a term that we use where there’s permanent structural change on a molecular level to the—to the brain that they cannot remember certain things, when they lose their memory. And you see this a lot in boxers who’ve gone on after their years in boxing and developed dementia problems. We don’t have that much experience with football players who’ve had multiple concussions. I don’t know of any article that’s been written on the subject. I know it’s been done with boxers, but not with football players.”

1994, Jan. 28: “That’s Enough for Buffalo Linebacker Cornelius Bennett,” no byline, Agence France Presse. International news report discusses injuries for Super Bowl teams, including Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman’s widely publicized memory loss of a concussion sustained during the previous week’s NFC title game. The report states: “When told a boxing trainer would suggest six weeks of rest after a concussion, Aikman said, ‘Did you tell him I have a Super Bowl to win? I’m not given the luxury of waiting til then.’ ” Jim Kelly, Bills quarterback, admits “second thoughts” about his brain injuries, especially given the decades of publicized concussions to NFL quarterbacks. “I’ve had six or eight of them and it’s a scary, scary feeling,” Kelly says. “You don’t know where you are at. The emptiness in your mind, let alone your gut, comes when you wake up trying to figure out why everybody is staring at you. It makes you wonder, ‘Is the game worth it?’ But it is.”

1994, Oct. 29:  “Illinois Firm Gives Aikman New Protection,” by Lorraine Kee, St. Louis Post-Dispatch. News commentary discusses star names who’ve suffered concussions in NFL, past and present—including Toon, Merrill Hoge, Roger Staubach, Harry Carson, Joe Montana, Aikman—and a doctor’s linking football to boxing for brain trauma and damage. “Of course, concussions aren’t news to these guys [NFL players],” Kee writes. Aikman says, “You have to be somewhat concerned by concussions, but it’s something you just have to deal with. I don’t want it to get out of hand. I want to live a normal life after pro football.” Dr. Kenneth R. Smith, neurosurgeon at St. Louis University Hospital, says, “It’s kind of like boxing injuries; if you get knocked out a lot of times, your brain will eventually have some diseased process going on. Usually, when the natural nerve cells die, they do not recover.” The specialist adds that multiple impacts to head and spine “could produce a permanent injury and a whole series of these could lead to a possible degeneration later on in life.”

1994, Nov. 1:  “Not Just Boxers [Who] Can’t Answer The Bell,” by Stephen Brunt, Toronto Globe and Mail. Canadian news commentary identifies hypocrisy in supporters of tackle football, including American neurologists, who condemn boxing for brain damage while claiming to see little or none in their nationalistic collision sport. “Professional boxing exists on the verge of extinction…,” Brunt writes. “What is thriving, though, is the greatest sports-entertainment complex in the world, the game that owns Sunday afternoons, NFL football. … What’s the difference between that and being knocked out in a boxing match?” Brunt notes lengthy layoff for concussed athletes in boxing, unlike football, where “after a quick whiff of smelling salts” the injured return to contact, then the writer poses: “Does a 300-pound lineman making full, head-to-head contact have as much brain-jarring impact as a perfectly timed blow delivered with a gloved fist? You’d have to think so. Does the football helmet offer sufficient protection? Obviously not sufficient to prevent players from routinely having their bell run… And when that same helmet becomes the top of a projectile hurtling through space, it also contributes to the damage done.” Football supporters criticized boxing for intent to injure, implying sanctity of their sport, but “watch [NFL lineman] Bruce Smith bearing down on [quarterback] Joe Montana,” Brunt intones, “and then try to convince anyone that his purpose is anything other than doing as much damage as possible. Just as in boxing, there is a direct reward for disabling a foe…” In conclusion, Brunt heckles American medicine and science for obvious see-no-evil perspective regarding NFL dangers: “So where is the AMA now, why isn’t professional football being cast as the last refuge of barbarianism, the way boxing is? Probably because football is not a fringe activity run by the Don Kings of the world, but a mainstream colossus. Probably because football is so tied to corporate and academic institutions and is run by bright, white lawyers. … Probably because the same people who would be doing the condemning have a brother or father or son who has at some level been involved in the game. In other words, probably because of divisions of taste, and class, and money—not [violent] content.”

1994, Nov. 5:  “Staff Is Ready for Severe Hits: Impact of Concussions Isn’t Lost on Vikings Doctors,” by Curt Brown,Minneapolis Star Tribune. News report discusses concussion awareness in an NFL franchise, including for symptoms like headache, blurred vision and memory loss, knowledge expanding among medical staff, coaches and players of an NFL team in 1994—tumultuous year of publicized brain-injury cases for the league, especially of star quarterbacks flattened on television. “If I could give players any advice, I’d say don’t ignore the signs,” says Hoge, a year after retiring for multiple concussions, such as the re-bleed or “second impact” brain injury that rendered him comatose, hospitalized in ICU. A concussion “can clear up and you can function normally,” Hoge continues. “But that doesn’t mean you’re right. This is messing with your brain. You can damage your life. You can go into a coma. You can even die from it.” Longtime Vikings team physician Dr. David Fischer says: “Perhaps awareness has been heightened with fans and players, but our medical staff has always been fairly sensitive to post-concussion syndrome.” Research remains fledgling regarding long-term effects of brain impacts football, with the NFL just committing itself to studies, but some 65 years of medical literature continues documenting brain damage of boxing, like “chronic encephalopathy,” through cellular pathology of deceased athletes and longitudinal study of the living—and the Vikings doctor knows as much, among several NFL team physicians speaking publicly. “In boxing, surely we’ve seen how repetitive head trauma can cause all types of long-term problems,” Fischer says. “But how many blows it takes, what severity over length of time, we don’t know. Dennis Green, Vikings head coach, says, “Concussions are not new to football, but we have a fair understanding of when a guy is safe to return and when he isn’t. It’s up to the doctor if he can or can’t go.”

1994, Nov. 20:  “Dazed and Confused: Merril Hoge and Other Veterans Are Finding Out Why Concussions Have Become Serious Head Games,” by Jerry Crasnick, Denver Post. News analysis discusses the following: brain concussion as “the most highly publicized injury of the 1994 season”; NP testing’s employ around the league, along with balance assessment of players, more intuitive methods to detect concussion symptoms; widespread concern, or talk, for guarding against dreaded “SIS,” second-impact syndrome; rhetoric on brain damage of tackle football; NFL concussion tracking and data compiled annually at the University of Iowa; and insider agreement that modern football is highly dangerous, with large, helmeted athletes sprinting and colliding in open field. “Sometimes the damage the brain sustains is permanent…,” Hoge says. “Twenty years down the line they can’t come in and give you a new joint. It’s irreversible.” Cris Collinsworth, former NFL player turned TV commentator, says: “Once you get out of football, you look back and say, ‘I can’t believe I ever did that.’ It’s insane. My wife tells me all the time that she’s glad I don’t play anymore.” Greg Aiello, NFL director of communications, says league rate of concussions isn’t changing despite public spotlight on the issue. “Obviously, it’s something we’d like to reduce,” Aiello says. “But if all the media attention suggests there’s been a sudden increase in concussions, that’s inaccurate.”

1994, Dec. 19:  “The Worst Case—Doctors Warn That Repeated Concussions Can Lead to Permanent Brain Dysfunction,” by Michael Farber, Sports Illustrated. This news analysis of the time’s most-read sports magazine discusses football brain trauma and potential or known brain damage in players of the American game, particularly in the NFL. “People are missing the boat on brain injuries [in football],” says neurologist Dr. James P. Kelly. “It isn’t just cataclysmic injury or death from brain injuries that should concern people. The core of the person can change from repeated blows to the head.” Farber writes: “Some [NFL] veterans have gone through the neuropsychological sideline drills so often that even new concussion can’t make them forget.” Farber reports: “On Dec. 9, [Jets team internist Dr. Elliot] Pellman, Dr. Andy Tucker of the Cleveland Brows and Dr. Ira Casson, a New York neurologist, met with league officials, including commissioner Paul Tagliabue, to discuss concussions and suggest ways to cut down on their frequency.” Elsewhere, Dr. Cantu, neurosurgeon and NCAA-funded researcher of catastrophic brain and spinal injuries in American football, blames players who do not employ “proper contact” or “proper technique” for impacts—or Cantu’s controversial theory for colliding in the modern game without using heads, by avoiding contact of high-tech helmets built for ramming without skull fracture, but incapable of preventing brain trauma: “We know that people who have a concussion tend to have more concussions,” Cantu says. “Why? Two logical reasons. The first is that certain people can take a blow better than others; you see that in boxing all the time. But of equal, if not more, importance is how you play the sport [football]. If you keep playing like a kamikaze, if you tackle with your head, there’s more of a chance of being concussed than if you block or tackle with the shoulders.” Neuropsychologist Ken Kutner, PhD, says lingering “postconcussion syndrome” is more widespread among active and former players than is generally believed: “I counsel several [New York] Giants, past an present, but they don’t want their names known,” Kutner says. Meanwhile, Dr. Joe Maroon, Steelers surgeon, sees the possibility that football players could suffer “cumulative effect” from concussions, but Dr. Joe Torg doesn’t, Eagles doctor: “I know of no football player who has had residual neurological impairment from repeated insults to the head,” Torg says.

1995, March 4:  “Don’t Ban Boxing—Just Make It Safer,” by Joan Ryan, San Francisco Chronicle. News commentary discusses tenants of so-called safer boxing designed to save the blood sport from extinction or banishment, including “scientific” or finesse punching, larger gloves, stringent selection and review of referees, and stringent medical restrictions for fighters, assuring their fitness. “Don’t let them in the ring if they don’t belong there. You’d reduce about 85 percent of the problems,” says neuropsychologist Matthew Bowen, who boxed as an amateur. Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson doesn’t care about a person he faces in the ring: “I try to catch my opponent by the tip of his nose,” Tyson says, “because I try to punch the bone into his brains.” Ryan, the pundit and confessed boxing fan, comments that “in the wake of yet another fighter leaving the ring on a stretcher with a blood clot in his brain, as happened to Gerald McClellan a week ago, I’m having a tough time arguing against those calling for drastic reforms or an outright ban of the sport.” However, “banning boxing altogether is unrealistic,” Ryan writes. “Plus, if we ban boxing for being too violent, we’d have to consider banning football, too. The incidences of flagrant violence have risen so high in the NFL that agent Leigh Steinberg recently gathered some of the country’s top brain doctors for a seminar with quarterback Steve Young, Troy Aikman, Warren Moon and other football clients who have sustained multiple concussions.”

1995, April 3:  “Information That Should Make Their Heads Spin,” by Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times. News commentary discusses new NFL initiatives and proposals, fostering “increased research and awareness of football head injuries,” that include the following: establishing a league committee of experts for brain-injury research and recommendations for prevention; reviewing helmet technology and banning dangerous models; mandating all rookies undergo “baseline” NP assessment for concussion monitoring throughout their careers; and establishing a league-wide “concussion grading scale” and “testing” so injured players can be diagnosed and sidelined until recovery. “If boxing can have these worldwide standards and rules that can keep certain fighters out of danger, it would seem that football could, also,” says Dr. David A Hovda, neurosurgeon and consultant on boxing’s health reforms. “This is a problem that needs to be addressed and studied now.” Another neurologist agrees, Dr. Janet Chance, who says: “Head injuries [in football] are a huge problem, and a poorly understood problem. There are some questions here that absolutely need to be answered.” But Dr. Elliot J. Pellman, Jets team doctor and chairman of the new NFL concussion committee, is unsure about for rapid progress because of monetary expense, time constraint and internal resistance: “Players run the show. If they don’t want to do something, it’s not going to happen,” Pellman says. “We suggest these things and owners are going to look at us like, What difference does this make?” Plaschke states: “It is this sort of attitude that may eventually drive an ex-player to his grave from Alzheimer’s disease. Many doctors now believe this occurs more frequently in those who have suffered multiple concussions.” The writer concludes: “The players still don’t scare and the owners still don’t care. You wonder what has to happen before they do.”

1995, Oct. 20:  “A No-Brainer: Football Leads to Concussions: Al Toon Will Attest That Symptoms Can Remain for Years,” by T.J. Simers, Los Angeles Times. News profile discusses life for former NFL receiver Al Toon with post-concussion syndrome, three years after football retirement, as he still experiences problems such as “emotional volatility.” Toon, a successful businessman, says, “There was a time when I thought of suicide. The act itself was never considered, but life was very frustrating.” Toon says there are more former players like him: “Very, very commonplace. You play the game of football, people get hit in the head. It’s no fluke.” Dr. Daniel Kelly, neurosurgeon at UCLA, believes that concussion management, if effective, would likely sideline many more players than what occurs, and for longer: “There are a lot of things we do not know yet, but the simplest thing would be to have [diagnosed concussed] players sit out a month,” Kelly says. “Of course, if you did that, you would probably have the quarterback, the running back and the tight ends sitting on the bench.” Leigh Steinberg, sports agent, says: “We won’t know for years what that impact of this will be. We may have an epidemic of Alzheimer’s and attendant problems 20 years from now with some of these players.”

1996, July 9:  “Concussion Potentially Most Dangerous Sport Injury: Blows to The Head Cause Brain Damage and The More Hits an Athlete Takes The More Chance of Permanent Injury: Little Research Conducted on Returning After Concussions,” by Shaun Powell, Newsday, New York, reprinted in Canada by The Vancouver Sun. In-depth news report discusses problems of concussion and more brain injury among athletes, young and old, including the following: no “firm” RTP protocol among various approaches for treating the concussed, disagreement marked by no consensus in defining the condition, and wide opinions regarding length of time needed for complete recovery; woeful injury reporting in American football, all levels, especially for subpar concussion diagnosis and recording overall; skull-preserving helmets that cannot prevent brain trauma while likewise encouraging head-on collisions; brain disease such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s in former athletes of contact sports; mounting adverse research findings for contact sports, especially tackle football. “The attention given head injuries in recent years has put the sports world on alert and confirms the fears of medical experts. The concussion finds itself at the forefront of sports injuries,” Powell reports. “We are years behind when it comes to brain injury and what we can do to diagnose it and take care of it,” says Jets internist Dr. Elliot Pellman, chairman of the recently minted NFL Committee on Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. For Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, concussions figured “in my decision to retire,” he says, estimating he sustained 18 to 20 in football from high school to the NFL.

1996, Oct. 31:   “Experts Warn of Brain Damage,” by Sabin Russell, San Francisco Chronicle. News analysis discusses concussions suffered by the 49ers’ star quarterback Steve Young, growing medical opinion that football’s brain dangers are underestimated, and continued speculation on brain damage of postconcussion syndrome and/or multiple concussions in football. “The risk of serious brain injury with a concussion is very, very low. But when it does happen, it is very severe,” says Dr. Gordon Matheson, Stanford professor of sports medicine. “In the scheme of things, they [concussions] may be very minor. But they may also affect a player over the long haul,” says neurologist Dr. Janet Chance. Russell reports: “Dr. Lawrence Pitts, a University of California at San Francisco neurosurgeon, said ongoing neuropsychological surveys of athletes will ultimately determine whether or not repeated concussions cause permanent damage. Although there is ample [research] evidence that boxers can be permanently damaged in their sport… no one can claim football players have a similar problem. ‘It is very uncommon to see a football player knocked unconscious,’ he said. ‘In boxing, it’s a different matter.’ ”

1996, Nov. 15:  “Concussion Policy Should Be A No-Brainer,” by Paul Woody, Richmond Times Dispatch. News analysis discusses controversial segment of concussion “return to play” protocols, length of layoff for the injured athlete, a sidelining that could be minutes in football or months in boxing. Woody notes that 49ers quarterback Steve Young suffered two diagnosed concussions within 15 days, prompting the question whether the NFL star came back too soon, or dangerously, following the initial brain trauma, continuing: “In boxing in Virginia and most states, a fighter who even takes a technical knockout must wait 30 days before boxing again. If there is a knockout [unconsciousness], the boxer’s waiting period is 60s days.” But the NFL dismisses such boxing RTP protocol for the concussed in pro football, while apparently speaking for football at-large, juvenile and college levels that will follow same philosophy: “We have a committee of team and outside doctors who have been meeting and studying concussions for the past two years,” says NFL spokesman Greg Aiello. “They say it doesn’t make sense to have a rule to keep a player out for a specified period of time. Concussions are too complex. They have to be considered on a case-by-case basis.” An independent analyst disagreed, Dr. Michelle Miller, Virginia Commonwealth University Medical School, who believed boxing RTP parameters should be adopted by football: “I don’t know that it’s coming any time in the future, but it’s needed,” she says.

1996, Dec. 1:  “Heady Concerns: Concussions No Longer Comedic Material in NFL,” by Jonathan Rand, Kansas CityStar. News analysis discusses multiple concussions to star NFL quarterbacks Troy Aikman and Steve Young, and insider perspective on potential brain damage of football players, related to boxing, by Dr. Joseph Waekerle, Chiefs team physician, member of NFL concussion committee, and renowned trauma-care specialist. “It’s a big problem because football has approximately 250,000 concussions every year,” Waekerle says. “One in every five high school players has a concussion on a yearly basis. Now, we’re beginning to understand the potentially serious effects of concussions, especially repeated concussions.” Noting conclusions about second-impact syndrome or brain re-bleeding and susceptibility for multiple concussions, Waekerle says: “The third [vulnerability] is the chronic thing—all this becomes cumulative. A great example would be a boxer. That may occur to other professional athletes who suffer many concussive syndromes.”

1996, Dec. 20:  “Heads, You Lose: Football Concussions Hit Players at All Levels,” by Angelo Bruscas, Seattle Post-Intelligencer. News analysis discusses concussion debate in football, talking points to endure decades into future, including in regard to cultural awareness, modern helmets, risk-taking athletes, soft concussion definition, and gigantic athletes. “The whole subject of concussions has been taken way too lightly,” says Leigh Steinberg, sports agent who’s organized educational seminars for players and encouraged media to cover of the issue. “When Monday Night Football opens with two helmets crashing together and when videos of hardest hits are huge sellers, there’s a level at which concussions are glamorized and the subject is treated as fun without a consciousness of real ramifications.” Pediatrician Dr. Stephen Rice believes football’s ever-increasing sizes and modern equipment create action of terrible risks and casualties, by emboldening players to act as missiles like never before: “Did all this happen before and we were just missing it all? … Now you could run into a steel wall and nothing would happen to you. … In the days when players wore only leather helmets without facemasks, no one struck people with their heads. There was no protection.” Rice notes the fact modern helmets do not prevent concussion “because the helmet doesn’t stop the brain from moving around inside the skull.”

1997, Jan. 1:  “QB Concussions: A Heady Issue,” by Thomas Boswell, Washington Post. News commentary discusses NFL brutality ravaging quarterbacks, suggesting football stars could end up punch-drunk permanently, and endorses controversial countermeasure to arbitrarily monitor tackler intent and punish “cheap-shot” or “dirty” hits. “This season, football’s been getting its bell rung with regularity,” Boswell writes. “Every time a popoular quarterback gets his brain scrambled the game suffers a blow, too. As our gridiron heroes reach middle age, do we want them to remind us of addled boxing pugs? Do we want Troy Aikman to tremble like Muhammad Ali or Danny Wuerffel to be as bizarre and bitter as Joe Frazier?” Boswell reports a coach’s allegation of bounty-type hits on Wuerffel, star quarterback at University of Florida: “Obviously [Florida State] had some late hits [on Wuerffel],” says UF coach Steve Spurrier. “Obviously they could have pulled off. The intent of the hits was a little different than the other teams we play. Obviously somebody told them to try to knock him out of the game.” Spurrier suggests responsibility lies with the Florida State “coaching staff.”

1997, June 10:  “Carson’s Crusade Begins, Puts Focus on Head Injuries,” by Randy Lange, Bergen Record. News profile discusses cognitive and emotional struggles of former All-Pro Giants linebacker Harry Carson, who’s become one of the first players, like Al Toon, to openly discuss his post-concussion dysfunction and dark thoughts such as suicide. “A lot of players are hesitant to talk about the brain and being brain-damaged. It’s one of those things you don’t want to be associated with,” Carson says. “I think probably there are a whole bunch of players walking around who are experiencing mood swings and sensitivity to bright lights and loud noises, who are having headaches, and a whole host of other symptoms. … There was a time where I was depressed about it, and bad thoughts came to my head. I didn’t know what was going on, and I didn’t have anybody to talk to. Suicide? I thought about it. I was living but I didn’t have a life. My head was kind of in a fog. My daughter Asia kept me up. I told myself, ‘You do that, what’s going to happen to her?’ ”

1997, July 13:  “‘Iron Mike’ Webster Works on Strategy for Health Since Retirement; He Has Struggled With Troubles,” by Terry Shropshire, Akron Beacon Journal. News profile discusses the Hall of Fame lineman’s descent into increasingly publicized problems after retiring from the NFL, including poor health, debt, pending divorce and homelessness. “As good as times got, they got bad,” says Pam Webster, estranged wife of the Steelers great. “We’ve gone through times where we didn’t have enough money for toilet paper. There were times we didn’t have heat in the house. … Mike has always been a loner by nature. But there were times that people should have been there for him.” Mike Webster says: “I lived in the car for about a year and a half out of the last five years. … My issues are my issues and I’ll handle my issues.” Doctors speculate Webster suffers from congestive heart failure, but he and others worry about his brain, possible symptoms of post-concussive syndrome or Parkinson’s. “He’s really had trouble concentrating and focusing on certain things in order to function at an optimum level,” says Dr. Jerry Carter, personal physician. Webster acknowledges mind disturbances: “Some of the things I think about, horrify me,” he says.

1997, Sept. 22:  “Use Your Head,” by Joan Ryan, The Sporting News. News analysis discusses NFL forces keeping brain-injured players on the football field, beginning with competitive intent of both the player and his team, such as the controversial case of 49ers quarterback Steve Young. “It’s tough for someone like Steve to sit out when he feels fine,” says Leigh Steinberg, the star’s agent. “But you don’t know how much long-term damage you’re causing by continuing to play. Maybe it’ll cause Alzheimer’s. Maybe senility.” Dr. Larry Bedard, of the American College of Emergency Physicians, doubts effectiveness of so-called concussion management and RTP in sports: “[Concussions] tend to be misdiagnosed and minimized. Athletes are trained to tough it out. But there may be no such thing as a mild concussion.”

1999, Nov. 21:  “NFL players roughed up to know it hurts,” by Bill Gleason, South Bend Tribune. News commentary discusses postconcussion syndrome and the multiple concussions suffered by “punch-drunk” NFL players, while quoting football writer Jerry Magee, who recently endorsed boxing’s lengthy layoff for such athletes in his column for Pro Football Weekly. “It also must be said that boxing, for all its abuses, is more mindful of the well-being of its participants than is the NFL,” Magee states. “In Nevada a boxer who is knocked out cannot fight again for at least 45 days. In the NFL quarterbacks or players at any position who suffer concussions can play again within days. On a recent Monday evening, there was Troy Aikman quarterbacking the Dallas Cowboys only eight days after suffering the sixth concussion of his year. Many people who cover the NFL for newspapers, radio, and TV are around NFL players who are suffering through ‘post-concussion syndrome.’ ”

1999, Dec. 10:  “A Hard-Headed NFL Makes for Soft Skulls,” by Tim Green, USA Today. Guest news commentary by former NFL player discusses regular concussions in the league and endorses mouthpieces for helping prevent brain trauma, while noting longtime nicknames for head-injured players include “cardboard head” and, for those exhibiting lasting impairment and susceptibility, “paper head.” Green writes: “I’m not such a paper head as to think that mouthpieces will eliminate concussions. They help. And, if the NFL is as serious about safety as I think, there will be fewer… cardboard heads.”

2000, May 15:  “Trying to Leave Concussions’ Dark Ages: Neurologists start to take sports hits more seriously,” by James C. McKinley, Jr., New York Times. News analysis discusses continuing problems of non-uniform concussion diagnosis and return-to-play protocols in the NFL and sport at-large, noting that only in “the past 15 years” are neurologist beginning to understand brain trauma and “how multiple concussions can lead to permanent damage.” Mark R. Lovell, a Detroit neurologist serving on the NFL concussion committee who designs NP testing for teams, dismisses concussion guidelines by the American Academy of Neurology: “We don’t know whether being knocked out briefly is any more dangerous than having amnesia and not being knocked out,” Lovell says. “We see people all the time that get knocked out briefly and have no symptoms. Others get elbowed, go back to the bench and say, ‘Where am I?’ ” League committee chairman Dr. Elliot Pellman dismisses standard guidelines for all cases as nonsense amid hype about brain injury in football: “You really have to hope that the doctors who deal with this have a lot of experience with it, use the tools available and are not affected by the outside din,” Pellman says.

2000, September:  “Lower Cognitive Performance of Older Football Players Possessing Apolipoprotein E4,” by Kenneth C. Kutner, David M. Erlanger, Julia Tsai, Barry Jordan, and Norman R. Relkin, Neurosurgery. Clinical study discusses possible genetic link to brain trauma and long-term damage in control groups involving 53 active “professional football players,” presumably of the NFL, and provides direction for priority research questions such as whether football impacts, both concussive and subconcussive, cause cerebral disease or what is known from boxing cases as CTBI, “chronic traumatic brain injury.” In review of literature available, the authors state: “To our knowledge, no previous published study has systemically evaluated the cognitive status of professional tackle football players. At least two different mechanisms may contribute to the development of chronic cognitive dysfunction in football players. First, cognitive impairment secondary to concussion may be cumulative. Football players occasionally experience concussive events through typical contact sport collisions, i.e., head-to-head, head-to-body, head-to-ground, and head-to-goal post collisions. Second, football players may experience subconcussive events through these same collisions during play and practice/training sessions. For professional boxers, CTBI has been associated more strongly with career length than with the number of knockouts and concussions, suggesting that subconcussive blows are an important primary environmental mechanism of neurological dysfunction.”

2001, April 17:  “Concussions Make Stars See Retirement,” by Jonathan Rand, Kansas City Star. News analysis discusses retirement of Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman, who sustained 10 diagnosed concussions in 12 NFL seasons, and includes comments by league medical officials on state of league knowledge or study in brain trauma of players, which the NFL contends typically clears in days to a week, outside exceptional cases like Aikman and fellow quarterback Steve Young. “For whatever reason, they take much longer to get better,” says Dr. Elliot Pellman, Jets internist and head of league brain committee and research. “You also notice the injuries they are getting are the result of lesser blows. … Why are these individuals more susceptible to post-concussion syndrome? You look at them and there’s no long-term damage. There’s no scientific evidence that can tell you they shouldn’t go back and play. Others say, ‘Even though I can’t prove it, intuitively there’s something wrong. You shouldn’t go back.’ What you see publicly is that debate going on.” Dr. Joseph Waeckerle, Chiefs physician and league committee member, says: “There’s no gold standard to diagnose concussions or predict whether someone will have another concussion.” Leigh Steinberg, agent for Aikman and Young, expresses frustration with the NFL’s “slow” pace for research and answers. “I think the years have not brought any greater focus. The denial by the NFL continues,” Steinberg says, urging standardized NP testing and development of concussion-resistant helmet technology. Pellman responds to Steinberg: “That’s a lawyer talking about medicine. I don’t think it’s ever that easy,” Pellman says. “I’d like to see better helmets and better equipment, and that’s the kind of work we’re trying to do now and are actively promoting to helmet manufacturers. But neither we [researchers] nor the NFL are helmet manufacturers.”

Matt Chaney is a writer, editor, teacher and restaurant cook in Missouri, USA. Chaney’s 2001 MA thesis at the University of Central Missouri involved electronic search for thousands of news reports on performance-enhancing drugs in American football, a project inspired by his experience of injecting testosterone as a college player in 1982 (Southeast Missouri State). Email him at mattchaney@fourwallspublishing.com. For more information, including about Chaney’s 2009 book Spiral of Denial: Muscle Doping in American Football, visit the homepage at www.fourwallspublishing.com.